This is a Media Law Update covering the last week prepared by the Legal Information Team at Matrix Chambers, which they have kindly agreed to make available to readers of Inforrm.

Latest Cases

JIH v News Group Newspapers Ltd [2011] EWCA 42 – 31 Jan 2011.  In allowing the appeal the Court ordered that the claimant’s anonymity should be restored. Held: the Court summarised ten principles applicable in cases where the protection sought by the claimant was an anonymity order or other restraint on publication of details of a case which were normally in the public domain [21]. It was “plainly correct” that, where the court permitted the identity of the claimant to be revealed, it was hard to envisage circumstances where that would not mean that significantly less other information about the proceedings could be published than if the proceedings were anonymised. Tugendhat J had held that the draft order was too restrictive in that it both gave JIH anonymity and prevented the reporting of any aspect of the evidence. The judge’s decision to opt for revealing JIH’s identity, rather than revealing the general nature of the information sought to be protected, was based on the propositions that (a) it was common ground between the parties that the general nature of the information should not be revealed, and (b) it had not been submitted on behalf of JIH that this should be reconsidered. Accordingly, as even the general nature of the information was not to be published, it followed that JIH’s identity should not be withheld from the public, given that restrictions on reporting should always be kept to a minimum. This approach was erroneous. The Court were satisfied that counsel for the claimant did argue below that if the restrictions in the draft order on reporting were to be reduced, it was the general details of the story which should be reportable in the media, and JIH’s anonymity should be retained. Accordingly, the judge reached his conclusion in his judgment on a mistaken basis.  There is an Inforrm Case Comment and case comments by 5RB and 1 Brick Court.

Viscount Monckton of Brenchley v BBC, QBD – 31 Jan 2011. A journalist and climate change sceptic failed in an attempt to obtain an injunction to restrain the broadcast of a BBC Four Programme Meet the Climate Sceptics.  The claimant had applied for an injunction to stop the programme being aired until it included a full right of reply from him. Tugendhat J rejected the application on the basis that the agreement on which Lord Monckton relied lacked the clarity which he argued it had.  The news story is here. There is also an Inforrm news item.

Farrall v Kordowski, QBD – 28 Jan 2011. The Court was required to assess damages in a libel action brought by the claimant solicitor against a website publisher following the anonymous posting of untrue allegations on the internet criticizing the claimant’s professional competency. Held: the defendant was responsible for what he allowed to be put on the website and for what he published even if he was not the original author. The purpose of libel damages was firstly, to compensate for distress; secondly, to compensate for injury to reputation; and thirdly to be an outward and visible sign of vindication so a bystander could see that there was no truth in the allegations. Aggravating factors were: the allegations were made without foundation and were malicious; there had been no attempt to verify the allegations before publication and the claimant was given no opportunity to comment before publication; when the defendant was notified of the defamatory character of the article the defendant, in effect, demanded that the claimant prove the allegations to be untrue. The libel was serious; it was an unwarranted slur on the competency and probity of a young member of the legal profession. Damages were assessed in the sum of £10,000.

Aydin v Germany (App No. 16637/07). ECtHR – 27 Jan 2011. Criminal conviction for contravening ban on PKK by signing a petition in support of them found not to breach ECHR, art 10 as interference with applicant’s freedom of expression deemed justified as appropriately prescribed by law and intended to protect public order and safety.  This is the Press Release.

Shergill v Purewal [2010] EWHC 3610 (QB) 15 Dec 2011. The issue in an application for a stay of libel proceedings was whether the claimant’s action was non-justiciable on the ground that the court at the trial would be required to rule on a doctrinal and religious issue which had arisen within the Sikh community. Application granted.

Latest Regulatory Decisions

Latest decisions of the Scottish Information Commissioner:

Latest Decision Notices from the Information Commissioner’s Office:

Latest decisions of the First-tier Tribunal, General Regulatory Chamber [Information Rights]

  • Peter Dun v IC EA/2010/0060: FOI Act 2000, s 40 (personal data).

Recent Developments

Baba Jeet Singh’s solicitors withdraw from libel case. Emily Butselaar. Index on Censorship – Free Speech Blog – 31 Jan 2011. Reports that ahead of the Court of Appeal hearing on security for costs in the Hardeep Singh case, Baba Jeet Singh’s solicitors Ford & Warren have written to the Court of Appeal to inform it that they are without instructions and are in the process of making an application to come off the court record as acting for the him. In October, Smith LJ granted Indian national Sant Baba Jeet Singh ji Maharaj the right to appeal in his libel case against journalist Hardeep Singh.  There is also a 5RB news story.

PCC statement on phone hacking. Press Complaints Commission. News Release – 31 Jan 2011.  Announces that the PPC has undertaken to institute a Phone Hacking Review Committee, with a lay majority, to consider the new information that becomes available, and make recommendations to the Commission. The purpose will be to draw together lessons learned as a result of the outcomes of the relevant police inquiries and ongoing legal actions. It will also consider the outcome of the current internal inquiry of the News of the World. The Committee will review the PCC’s own previous actions in regard to this matter.

Blanket reporting restriction set aside by Court of Appeal. Louise Jacobs. RPC Privacy Blog – 31 Jan 2011.  Notes that the Court of Appeal has discharged an order the effect of which would have been to postpone the reporting of a criminal case for several months. The case relates to the murder of a 15-year-old boy last year in front of hundreds of commuters during the rush hour at London’s Victoria Station.

Campbell libel ruling exposes ‘deeply flawed’ CFA system. James Dean. Law Society Gazette – 27 Jan 2011. Claims “Bumper success fees for lawyers in libel cases will soon be a thing of the past following last week’s ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in the Naomi Campbell case, solicitors predicted this week.”

Articles and Discussion

Freedom of information (January). Ibrahim Hasan (Director, Act Now Training Ltd).  Law Society’s Gazette L.S.G. (2011) Vol.108 No.4 pgs.17-18.  Highlights two First-tier Tribunal decisions: British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection v Information Commissioner, on the issue of when information was “held” by a public authority and the other, Cooksey v Information Commissioner, concerning the Freedom of Information and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulations 2004,  reg 12 cost of compliance ground for a public authority to refuse a request for information.