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.
Hirschfeld v McGrath  EWHC 249 (QB) – 15 Feb 2011. The Court considered whether an anonymity order should be continued – permitting the court to say more about the case in a public judgment – or whether some other order governing the reporting of the proceedings should be made. The defendant had threatened to include certain private information concerning the claimant in an autobiography. Held: the defendant still intended to publish his autobiography. In view of this, were the court to continue the anonymity order and to include more detail about the case in a public judgment, there was a risk of ‘jigsaw identification’ following the book’s publication which would defeat the purpose of the claimant having come to court. The Court lifted the anonymity order and limited the amount of information contained in the public judgment.
Brady v Norman  EWCA Civ 107 – 9 Feb 2011. The claimant appealed against a refusal to disapply the 12-month limitation period applicable to his defamation claim. The Court was asked to consider whether master’s decision refusing application was in conflict with authority on the equivalent time limit in personal injury claims. Held: the master and the judge below had been entitled to find that the claimant had not made out a case for disapplication of the normal limitation rule under the Limitation Act 1980, s 32A. Defamation considerations were very different from those in personal injury cases; the defamatory impact of libel or slander was likely to be transient and Parliament clearly intended the shorter limitation period to reflect the need for a claimant to assert and pursue his need for vindication speedily. There is a WLR Summary here.
Beach Developments Ltd v Foskett  EWHC 198 (QB). The court determined costs following a pre-trial review in an action for defamation where the meaning of the words complained of were determined. It was not in accordance with the overriding objective under CPR 1998, SI 1998/3132, r 1.1 for the court to permit the parties to litigate issues which were not proportionate to the money involved. As the claimant was a company the money involved in the action was unlikely to exceed a low sum. Damages could not include injury to feelings. The defence of justification to the Chase level two or three meanings had given rise to significant costs. It appeared that the defendant had in effect attempted to include within the libel action many of the grievances which he had raised in a contractual dispute. The defendant had advanced a meaning at Chase level two or three which the words complained of did not bear. Any particulars of justification which were relevant only to those meanings were therefore to be struck out of the defence. The defendant could not recover his costs of pleadings in those matters or any costs occasioned by those matters
Thornton v Telegraph Media Group  EWHC 159 (QB) – 2 Feb 2011. The defendant applied for permission to amend its defence to a claim for malicious falsehood. The case concerns claims arising out of a review of the claimant’s book Seven Days in the Art World by Lynn Barber in The Daily Telegraph. It is not the case that the words complained of cannot be regarded as false for the purposes of malicious falsehood if they are comment which an honest person could express on the basis of the contents of the book which were identified.
For judgment, please visit:
Latest Regulatory Decisions
Latest decisions of the First-tier Tribunal, General Regulatory Chamber [Information Rights]
- Mr John Pycroft v IC EA/2010/0165: FOI Act 2000, s 40 (personal data). Please download:
- Bernard Figg v IC EA/2010/0171: FOI Act 2000, s 14(1) (vexatious request). Please download:
Lack of malice halts David Beckham’s $25m US libel bid. Press Gazette – 15 Feb 2011. Reports that David Beckham has failed in his $25m libel bid against a US magazine over claims he slept with a prostitute. Beckham denies the allegations and his lawyers insist that Bauer-owned In Touch magazine does not defend the truth of them. But his action has failed because under US law he was required to prove not just that the allegations were untrue, but that the publisher acted with malice.
Should press law prioritise privacy or public interest? Interview by Emine Saner. The Guardian – 12 Feb 2011. Discussion between Max Mosley and Roy Greenslade.
For news story, please visit
Naik to speak. Rachel Savage. The Cherwell – 11 Feb 2011. Notes that controversial Imam Dr. Zakir Naik spoke at the Oxford Union via video-link. He was banned from the UK last year by Home Secretary Theresa May for “unacceptable behaviour”.
For news story, please visit
ICO response to the government’s announcement on the Protection of Freedoms Bill. Information Commissioner’s Office. Press Release – 11 Feb 2011. ICO response to the government’s announcement on the Protection of Freedoms Bill.
Campaign welcomes FOI changes in Protection of Freedoms Bill but calls for them to be extended
UK Freedom of Information Blog – 11 Feb 2011. Campaign for Freedom of Information press release on the Protection of Freedoms Bill.
‘100 new phone-hack victims to come out’. Dominic Ponsford, Press Gazette – 10 Feb 2011. Notes that new evidence suggests that a hardcore of 100 phone-hack targets are expected to be discovered, according to sources quoted by the Daily Mail.
PCC publishes guidance on online prominence, Press Complaints Commission. Guidance – 9 Feb 2011. Guidance to the newspaper and magazine industry about the prominence of the publication online of PCC-negotiated corrections and apologies. It also issues guidance on the prominence of critical adjudications issued by the PCC.
For full text, please visit
Data Protection Day: guaranteeing individuals’ privacy rights, Commission, DG Justice, Press Release – 28 Jan 2011. Data Protection Day aims to give people the chance to understand what personal data is collected and processed about them and why, and what their rights are with respect to this processing. The European Commission will propose changes to the 1995 Data Protection Directive later this year.
Articles & Discussion
Redefining the Defence of Fair Comment Amber Melville-Brown (Withers). Law Society’s Gazette L.S.G. (2011) Vol.108 No.6 pgs.17-18. Considers developments relating to the defence of fair comment, including: Joseph v Spiller  UKSC 53 on whether Lord Nicholls’ fourth proposition in relation to fair comment in Tse Wai Chun Paul v Cheng  EMLR 31 was incorrect in that it required that the comment must identify the matters on which it was based with sufficient particularity to enable the reader to judge for himself whether it was well founded; and the MoJ proposal to reform of the law of defamation, preceded by the private members’ Defamation Bill introduced by Lord Lester of Herne Hill which included a reworking of the defence of fair comment.
Archives and Accountability. FOI Man Blog – 9 Feb 2011. Discusses threats to Archive Services/Record Offices in Doncaster and Croydon.
A walk in the park. Nicholas Dobson (Association of Council Secretaries & Solicitors). New Law Journal N.L.J. (2011) Vol.161 No.7452 pgs.201-202. Discusses Clift v Slough BC  EWCA Civ 1171 on whether a local authority had a defence of “qualified privilege” against a claim of libel brought by a member of the public who had reported an incident of vandalism in a public park and had become so frustrated by the treatment of her complaint that she had used violent language leading to her being named on the Violent Person’s Register and being reported as a danger to council workers.