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.

Latest Cases

Awdry, Bailey & Douglas v Kordowski [2011] EWHC 785 (QB) (1 April 2011).   Tugendhat J struck out the defence of the operator of the “Solicitors from Hell” website in a libel action and granted a permanent injunction to prevent him from publishing the same or similar allegations against the claimant solicitors.

Lewis v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis & Ors [2011] EWHC 781 (QB) (31 March 2011).  Tugendhat J held that the words complained of were capable of bearing the defamatory meaning that the claimant was a liar.  He also held that evidence of the publishee’s reaction to the words was admissible.    He refused to strike out the action as an abuse of the process and refused to give summary judgment on qualified privilege.

Cook v Telegraph Media Group Ltd [2011] EWHC 763 (QB) (29 March 2011).  A libel claim by a former MP arising out of the Telegraph’s coverage of MP’s expenses.  Although certain parts of the claim were unarguably comment, Tugendhat J dismissed the application for summary judgment on justification, comment and Reynolds privilege.   The application for jury trial was late and the application for trial by jury was refused as the facts favoured trial by judge alone.  There is a 5RB case note.

Bowker v RSPB [2011] EWHC 737 (QB) (25 March 2011).  Sharp J gave summary judgment for the defendant on libel claims brought in relation to emails and a critique of a peer-reviewed article about grouse: she accepted that some of the publications bore defamatory meanings (though not as grave as the meanings put forward by the claimants); but found that they were protected by qualified privilege and there was no prospect of malice being proved.  There is a 5RB case note.

RTBF v Belgium (App No. 50084/06)(judgment available in French only). ECtHR – 29 Mar 2011. Interim ban on TV programme was in breach of Belgian broadcaster’s freedom of expression – breach of ECHR, arts 6, 10. There is a press release in English.

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]

Adjudication – Mr Brian Simpson v Scottish Daily Mail. Press Complaints Commission Decision – 18 Mar 2011. Complaint alleging breach of clause 4 (harassment) of the Code of Practice.  There is a PCC press release.

Recent Developments

Lord Judge calls for technology to boost court reporting, PA Media Lawyer. Press Gazette – 30 Mar 2011.  Notes that Lord Judge LCJ has said that advances in new technology may help make it easier for the media to be “present” in court – and end the present trend of fewer reporters covering cases. Lord Judge said it was his “fervent hope” this would be the case as he delivered a lecture on The Judiciary and the Media at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.   The full speech can be found here.

Superinjunction scores legal first for nameless financier in libel action, David Leigh. The Guardian – 30 Mar 2011. Explains that “a wealthy financier involved in a family dispute has made British legal history by winning anonymity in a libel case”. Tugendhat J forbade anyone in Britain from identifying “Mr Z”, who claims to have been defamed by his relatives in a row over a multimillion pound family trust.

Justice Secretary Ken Clarke outlines CFA reform. PA Media Lawyer. Press Gazette – 29 May 2011. Explains that Justice Secretary Ken Clarke has announced that defendants who lose defamation and privacy cases will no longer have to pay success fees under CFAs. This is the Government response.

MPs: Libel reform needs to stop companies suing. PA Media Lawyer. Press Gazette – 23 Mar 2011.  Notes that a Commons’ Early Day Motion (so far signed by 13 MPs) argues that effective reform of the “outdated and unbalanced” libel laws can only be delivered by the Defamation Bill if it stops companies and corporations from suing for libel and restricts them to actions for malicious falsehood.

‘Hyper-injunction prevented individual talking to MPs’. PA Media Lawyer Press Gazette – 22 Mar 2011. Liberal democrat MP John Hemming used the protection of Parliamentary privilege during an adjournment debate on the Bill of Rights at Westminster Hall to claim that an individual involved in court proceedings over the risk of toxic materials leaching out of a paint used to coat drinking water tanks, was silenced by a “hyper-injunction” which even banned him from talking to an MP.

Articles and Discussion

Exploiting the shots: Grisbrook v MGN Ltd, Holly Gilliam (Wiggin LLP). Entertainment Law Review Ent. L.R. (2011) Vol.22 No.4 pgs.122-124.  Comments on the Court of Appeal decision in Grisbrook v MGN Ltd on whether an implied licence granted by a freelance photographer to a newspaper publisher to use his photographs between 1981 and 1997 extended to their subsequent commercial exploitation through electronic means, including through the online publication of newspaper back issues.

MGN Ltd v United Kingdom – ECHR condemns excessive success fees, Eleanor Steyn & Gillie Abbotts (Michael Simkins LLP) Entertainment Law Review Ent. L.R. (2011) Vol.22 No.4 pgs.125-127.  Comments on MGN Ltd v UK (App No. 39401/04) which held that the success fees awarded against a newspaper in a privacy case brought by a celebrity, and which were part of a CFA, were disproportionately high, and that the finding of misuse of public information in respect of the newspaper’s publication of articles and photographs constituted an infringement of its right to freedom of expression under ECHR, art 10.