In this regular feature we draw attention to the last week’s law and media news and next week’s upcoming events. If readers have any news or events which they would like to draw attention to please add them by way of comments on this post.
After the privacy and phone hacking frenzy of recent times this was a quiet week. There has been a pause for reflection by some of the participants. The Press Gazette reports that a tabloid editor has said that kiss and tell stories “are not worth the legal hassle and no longer sell well”. The editor “who did not wish to be named”, said that kiss and tells “became such a legal minefield that we decided it’s really not worth the hassle of doing these and we don’t really get a reaction“.
The Press Gazette also says that it has seen
“unofficial industry estimates for the following NoW splash stories: “Crouch Beds £800 teen hooker” (8/8/10), “Cheating Roo beds hooker” (5/9/10), “Toon star’s cocaine and sex orgy” (7/11/10), “Matt’s a cheating sex addict (24/11/10) and “I bedded Roo’s Man U team mate” (27/4/11). According to the estimates, “Cheating Roo beds hooker” – the story about Wayne Rooney cheating on his pregnant wife with a prostitute in a hotel room – was the only story to achieve a substantial week-on-week sales uplift. The other editions were either flat or slightly down week on week.
The Independent reports the findings of a poll showing that the majority of respondents believe “judges have been too ready to issue gagging orders”. This is in response to a question which begins “Thinking about super injunctions” – which tells us where the pollsters are coming from. Unsurprisingly faced with the evil menace of super-injunctions and asked whether they agree that the judges have been too ready to grant injunctions, 70% of respondents say yes. We will have a post about this poll in more detail later in the week.
There was considerable media discussion of Max Mosley’s request to refer his case against the United Kingdom to the Grand Chamber (see our post here). There were, for example, discussions of the case on the BBC and in the Daily Mail.
The Index on Censorship blog has a piece by Richard Wilson about the case of McLaughlin v LB Lambeth (see our case comment on an interlocutory decision last year) asking the question: why would a London primary school employ the services of a political lobbying firm — and libel lawyers Carter Ruck?
The Meejaw Law blog’s “Media law mop up” this week is “Counting super injunctions; Twitter battles; and libel in the schoolyard”
Journalism and the PCC
The Five Chinese Crackers blog “Tabloid Bullshit of the Month” award goes to a second time winner, the political editor of the “Express”,Macer Hall, for ‘EU wants to merge UK with France‘ and ‘EU flag rule: big fines if our public builidngs [sic] fail to mark Europe day‘.
Meanwhile, Jon Slattery’s blog draws attention to Kelvin MacKenzie’s Sun column paying tribute to the “tens of thousands – probably hundreds of thousands – in the online and Twitter world who are standing up against the rich and famous and their toy poodle super-injunctions.” It might be thought that the judges will take comfort from having Mr MacKenzie on the other side of this particular argument.
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
There were no Statements in Open Court in the past week.
In the Courts
The only relevant Court hearing in the past week was the application by the “Sun” before Mr Justice Tugendhat on 1 June 2011 to vary the injunction in Goodwin v News Group to permit them to identify the woman with whom the claimant had an affair. There were reports of the hearing by the Press Gazette, the BBC and on the Media Beak blog. Judgment was reserved.
From the Blogs
The Panopticon Blog has a post by Robin Hopkins entitled “Some Reflections on Super Injunctions and Parallel Universes“ – dealing with the Report of the Neuberger Committee.
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
In Australia, the Supreme Court of Western Australia has, unsurprisingly, held that statements in the course of proceedings in the Magistrates Court were published on an occasion of absolute privilege (see Prefumo v Sutton  WASC 151). In the case of Barach v University of New South Wales  NSWSC 431 the Supreme Court of New South Wales gave the claimant permission to serve libel proceedings on a defendant in the United States.
We have discussed libel reform in Jamaica on a number of occasions (see, for example, here). Reform is moving slowly but the Jamaica Observer reports that the matter has now been brought before the Cabinet for consideration.
In Malaysia, Fahmi Fadzil, an opposition politician’s aide has agreed to apologise 100 times on Twitter over the course of three days. Each post reads: ‘I’ve DEFAMED Blu Inc Media and Female Magazine. My tweets on their (human resource) policies are untrue. I retract those words and hereby apologise.’ Fahmi said he felt he was being accountable for his actions. “I don’t feel embarrassed. I believe I have to be responsible for the things I say and do.” The settlement is reported in the Malaysia Star – and was picked up around the world including in the Daily Mail (which curiously describes Fahmi as being “ordered” and “forced” to tweet his apologies).
In New Zealand, in the case of Vincent Ross Siemer v Michael Peter Stiassny and Korda Mentha  NZSC 63 (3 June 2011) the Supreme Court refused permission to appeal against the award of NZ$1 million in libel damages. There is a report on the decision here. In Peters v Television New Zealand Limited  NZCA 231 (27 May 2011) the Court of Appeal allowed the plaintiff’s appeal on the pleading of meaning in the amended Statement of Claim.
In Singapore, the Court of Appeal High Court has rejected British writer Alan Shadrake’s appeal against his six-week jail sentence for contempt of court. The Court of Appeal found that two of the eleven statements found to be contempuous by the judged were not, in fact, contemptuous (see Shadrake Alan v Attorney-General  SGCA 26)
Events and Broadcasts
At 4.00pm on Tuesday 7 June 2011, BBC Radio 4’s “Law in Action” has a programme on “Super-Injunctions”, featuring interviews with Sir Charles Gray, Mark Warby QC and Hugh Tomlinson QC. No events have been reported to us.
Next Week in the Courts
The new legal term – Trinity – begins on Tuesday 7 June 2011 (and concludes on 29 July 2011). In the course of this week the Courts will hear applications in Thornton v Telegraph Media Group and Ashcroft v Foley.
The following reserved judgments after public hearings remain outstanding:
El Diwany v Ministry of Justice & the Police, Norway, heard 16 March 2011 (Sharp J).
R (on the application of Gaunt) v OFCOM, heard 11 May 2011 (Master of the Rolls, Toulson and Etherton LJJ).
Hutcheson (formerly known as “KGM”) v News Group Newspapers, heard 24 May 2011 (Master of the Rolls, Etherton and Gross LJJ)
Caplin v Associated Newspapers Ltd, heard 26 May 2011 (Sharp J)
Goodwin v News Group Newspapers Ltd, heard 1 June 2011 (Tugendhat J)