This is a Media and Information 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.
Mondragon v Spain (App No. 2034/07). ECtHR – 15 Mar 2011 (the judgment is available only in French). The applicant was the representative of a left wing Basque political party who called the King of Spain “he who protects torture and imposes his monarchical regime on our people through torture and violence”. He was prosecuted for “serious insult against the King”, found guilty and sentenced to one year’s imprisonment, suspension of the right to vote during that period and the payment of costs and expenses. The Court held that the applicant’s remarks, made in his capacity as elected member of and spokesperson for a parliamentary group, concerned a matter of public interest in the Basque Country. They were value judgments and with sufficient factual basis. The Court found that the interference was not “necessary iin a democratic society” and as a result there a violation of ECHR, art 10. There is a Press Release in English.
OFCOM v Information Commissioner (C-71/10). AG’s Opinion – 10 Mar 2011. Considers how the public interest balancing test in the Environmental Information Regulations should be approached when two or more disclosure exceptions are engaged. Held: where a public authority holds environmental information, disclosure of which would have some adverse effects on the separate interests served by more than one exception under the Environmental Information Directive, art 4(2), but it would not do so, in the case of either exception viewed separately, to any extent sufficient to outweigh the public interest in disclosure, the directive requires a further exercise involving the cumulation of the separate interests served by the two exceptions and their weighing together against the public interest in disclosure. There is a blog post on the FOIA blog.
A (a child) (by his mother and litigation friend) v Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust  EWHC 454 (QB) 4 Jan 2011. A seven-year-old child born with severe disabilities after mistreatment by hospital staff should be the subject of an anonymity order under the Children and Young Persons Act 1933, s 39 because there was not sufficient public interest to justify naming him. The order was granted in the course of a hearing at which a settlement of a claim for personal injuries was settled. The child’s identification would defeat the objective of the settlement and the curtailment of his and his family’s right to respect for their private and family life that would occur if identification were allowed could not be justified. Consent of custodial parents was not obtained. No exceptional public interest to justify publication. There is a press release here.
Latest Regulatory Decisions
Latest decisions of the First-tier Tribunal, General Regulatory Chamber [Information Rights]
- G.M. Freeze v ICEA/2010/0112. EIR 2004, reg 13, Directive 2003/4/EC Environmental Information and personal data. Please download: There is Panopticon Blog post on this case.
Carmarthenshire County Council v South Wales Guardian, 16 March 2011 Publication of a photograph of a child under breach of clause 6 (children). The article was an interview with the mother of a woman who had been convicted of murder in 2008. In the course of the interview she had spoken about her daughter’s appeal and the adoption of her daughter’s child as a result of the conviction. The article featured a photograph of the child taken when she was thirteen months old.
Government refuses to outlaw celebrity gagging orders, Oliver Wright, Whitehall Editor, The Independent – 16 Mar 2011, Notes that ministers have ruled out reforming Britain’s privacy laws or bringing in new legislation to stop super-injunctions silencing the media. Launching the Government’s draft Libel Bill, the Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke said said such a move would be “wildly controversial” and there was no legislative time available in Parliament to get it done.
Met fears release of ‘evidence’ would hurt phone-hacking case. Cahal Milmo & Martin Hickman. The Independent – 16 Mar 2011. Reveals Scotland Yard is seeking to withhold evidence from alleged victims of the News of the World phone-hacking scandal over fears that doing so could endanger its criminal investigation. Sienna Miller will apply to the High Court for News International emails relevant to her phone-hacking claim and details on how the company stores its vast bank of electronic information.
Libel law reform announced. Ministry of Justice, Consultation – 15 Mar 2011. Announces “new measures to support free speech, enable people to protect their reputation and help stop the use of unreasonable threats of being sued for libel”. Consultation ends: 10 Jun 2011. The draft Bill and consultation questions can be found here. Joshua Rozenberg has a piece about the Bill in The Guardian.
Court hands down first Twitter libel damages order. Press Gazette – 14 Mar 2011. A Welsh councillor has been ordered to pay what is believed to be the first libel damages to a political rival as a result of comments posted to Twitter. The councilor was ordered to pay £3,000 damages plus costs after using the social network to wrongly claim that a rival had been removed from a polling station by police during a by-election in 2009. There is an Inforrm blog post about the case here.
Gillingham FC bid to unmask BBC Online commenters, Sarah Limbrick, Press Gazette – 14 Mar 2011. Notes that Gillingham Football Club is seeking an order that would force the BBC to disclose the name, postal address, and email address of an individual who has posted a comment on the corporation’s sport website. The club wants to sue the individual over allegations of racial hatred within the club, but does not know his identity.
MP: Fred Goodwin bans press from calling him a banker. PA Mediapoint. Press Gazette – 11 Mar 2011. Reports that Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming has used Parliamentary privilege to highlight the fact that former Royal Bank of Scotland chief executive Sir Fred Goodwin has taken out an injunction banning newspapers to stop media outlets referring to his former role.
Contempt on the internet: journalism and the law. Simon Hetherington. Halsbury’s Law Exchange. Discusses AG v Associated Newspapers Ltd & Anor  EWHC 418 (Admin). The High Court found The Sun and The Daily Mail in contempt of court. Both newspapers, in their online editions alone, had in 2009 published the photograph of a man accused of murder while his trial was in progress. Both papers removed the photograph from their online editions within hours, in pursuance of a court order, and neither included it in a print edition.
Web redefines relationship between journalism and the law, Joshua Rozenberg. Law Society Gazette – 10 Mar 2011. Discusses Clift v Clarke, about a Norwich Pharmacal disclosure application in libel action following critical comments made on a newspaper’s website.
Articles and Discussion
Local Authority Surveillance, Ibrahim Hasan (Director, Act Now Training Ltd), Law Society’s Gazette L.S.G. (2011) Vol.108 No.10 pgs.20-21. reviews proposed amendments to the RIPA2000 including the introduction of a requirement for local authorities to obtain a magistrate’s approval for the use of covert investigation techniques; before an authorisation or notice to access data from a communications service provider can take effect; and for directed surveillance or a covert human intelligence source to be deployed. Notes the proposal to introduce a threshold restriction on cases in which authorised directed surveillance can be used.
Reforming Libel: What should a defamation bill contain?, The Libel Reform Campaign Report – 10 Mar 2011 Statement from celebrities and campaigners, Gillian Slovo, Jonathan Ross, Marcus Brigstocke, Nick Ross, Dr Ben Goldacre, Dave Gorman, Joan Bakewell, Professor Nancy Rothwell, AC Grayling and Shappi Khorsandi, are parliamentarians to support the Libel Reform Campaign’s blueprint for reform.