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.
We begin with two statements in open court by News Group Newspapers in the past week – one in a libel case and the other in relation to “phone hacking. The first statement was on 9 June 2011 in the case of Sylvia Henry v News Group Newspapers. This indicated that the libel claim brought by a social worker involved in the “Baby P” case – due this week to be the first jury trial of 2011 – had been settled. The “Sun” also published an apology to Ms Henry, indicating that it had agreed to pay compensation. There is a story about the statement in the Press Gazette.
The second statement in open court, was the first to be made in a “phone hacking” case. This was in the case of Sienna Miller v News Group. In relation to the obtaining and publishing of information through phone hacking, Michael Silverleaf QC, for the News of the World said:
“The information should never have been obtained in the manner it was, the private information should never have been published and [the NOTW] has accepted liability for misuse of private information, breach of confidence and harassment.“
There was a report of the statement in the Independent.
In relation to phone hacking more generally, we have already posted about the new allegations against the News of the World concerning the activities of private investigator Jonathan Rees. We drew attention to Brian Cathcart’s post “Endgame at News International”. On Sunday 12 June 2011 the “Observer” published a powerful piece by Henry Porter about the importance of the phone hacking story, “Can it be that Rupert Murdoch really is above the law now?” concluding
“Don’t let vested interests tell you this story doesn’t matter: it does – to all of us, because on this issue rests the future health of politics, journalism and our society“.
Six weeks ago Roy Greenslade asked News International: are you paying Glenn Mulcaire’s legal fees? The company refused to say. He continues to pursue this question with Mr Mulcaire’s lawyers – so far without any positive result.
Friday 10 June 2011 was the last day for responding to the Ministry of Justice consultation on the Draft Defamation Bill. We have posted a number of the publicly available responses on Inforrm in the right hand column.
The Meejaw Law blog’s “Media law mop up” this week is “Comment moderation; Operation Weeting; and Goodwin injunction”
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
We have already mentioned the two statements read this last week.
In the Courts
On 9 June 2011 Mr Justice Tugendhat handed down a complex and interesting judgment in the case of Goodwin v News Group Newspapers (No.3) ( EWHC 1437 (QB)), refusing an application to permit the identification of the interested party – but perhaps surprisingly allowing the identification of her job description. There were case notes on the 5RB and One Brick Court websites and a variety of news reports, including by the Financial Times, the Guardian and the Press Gazette. The “Sun” did not seem entirely pleased by the ruling, referring to the judgment as a “farcical decision” and “gibberish”
On 10 June 2011 Mr Justice Eady gave judgment in the case of El-Naschie v Macmillan Publishers ( EWHC 1468 (QB)) dealing with a number of applications in a libel action by a litigant in person which is due to be tried over a period of 15 to 20 days beginning on 31 October 2011.
From the Blogs
Brian Cathcart has a post on the Free Speech Blog “10 Things I’ve Learned about injunctions” Point 10 is
For every time the law is an ass there is an occasion when the British tabloid press is a slavering pack of hyenas. But with the law you have a right of appeal.
In his Media Law Journal blog New Zealand barrister Steven Price draws attention to a curiously unremarked “irony” that
“the UK media have fought, tooth and nail, against Max Mosley’s attempt to force them to give advance notice to people whose privacy they plan to invade (which would give those people a chance to seek an injunction before the damage was done by publication)… at the same time as they’ve been fighting equally hard for the right to be given advance notice themselves of anyone who seeks an injunction against them (which would give the media a chance to turn up and argue that such an injunction should not be granted)?”
The Greenslade blog has a post about an interview given by Inforrm contributor Hugh Tomlinson QC entitled “Tomlinson – why Hemming, tweeters and editors are wrong about privacy”.
The Crane and Matten blog – which deals with issues of corporate responsibility, has a post entitled “Sex, privacy and media ethics” which begins by pointing out
Sex sells. And sex really sells in the media business. With their profitability in free-fall, newspaper businesses especially are always on the look out for a salacious front page story to help them grab some precious market share. Unfaithful soccer stars “playing away from home”, celebrity match-ups and break-ups, trysts with prostitutes, or accusations of sexual assault are all highly newsworthy, especially at the tabloid end of the market.
There is an interesting discussion of a recent case – wrongly described as a “super-injunction” – which concludes with what the authors describe as the “pragmatic” view that perhaps celebrities do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to affairs with glamour models and reality TV stars.
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
In the Queensland case of Robertson v Dogz Online & anor  QSC 158 the Supreme Court of Queensland considered abuse and pleading issues in a long running libel case, giving permission to amend after detailed consideration.
An interesting libel case from Quebec – where 93 car dealers have brought a libel case against a radio commentator. In Acadia Subaru c. Michaud, 2011 QCCA 1037 Mr Michaud argued that the action was designed to silence him as a radio commentator. The Court of Appeal held that the action appeared to be improper and made an order for security for costs.
There is an article in the Canadian journal “Lawyers Weekly” on “Municipal Politicians and online defamation“
In Ireland, it is reported that a retired car dealer won €10,000 in damages from State-owned Anglo Irish Bank in a Circuit Court defamation case last week over four dishonoured sterling bank drafts.
In India, the law ministry is working on a proposal to make right to privacy a fundamental right in the Indian Constitution.
Events and Broadcasts
No events for next week have been reported to us.
Next Week in the Courts
On Monday 13 June 2011 the Court of Appeal (Maurice Kay and Carnwath LJJ and Sir Henry Brooke) will hear three appeals in the libel case of Andre v Price – from decisions of Mr Justice Tugendhat on 11 and 13 October 2010. All are from extempore judgments given in the libel action between Peter Andre and his ex-wife Katie Price.
On Friday 17 June 2011, the Court of Appeal will give judgment in the case of R (Gaunt) v OFCOM heard on 11 May 2011 by the Master of the Rolls, Toulson and Etherton LJJ.
The following reserved judgments after public hearings remain outstanding:
El Diwany v Ministry of Justice & the Police, Norway, heard 16 March 2011 (Sharp J).
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)
Lord Ashcroft KCMG v Foley & ors, heard 7-8 June 2011 (Eady J)
Cook v Telegraph Media Ltd, heard 9 June 2011 (Tugendhat J)