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.
Tomorrow’s onset of summer reminds us that the Superinjunction Spring is drawing to a close – with no privacy injunction applications for over a month. We will begin with libel and, unusually, in Scotland where a remarkable settlement was announced. The “News of the World” has paid libel
damages of £70,000 to the former Celtic goalkeeper Artur Boruc after it was hoaxed into believing he had sent sexually explicit text messages to “a mystery woman”. According to the Scotsman this is believed to be the largest libel damages settlement ever in a Scottish defamation case. Under the headline “Ex-Celtic keeper is a real love rat“, the paper claimed he had been deceiving his pregnant fiancée by sending her “explicit X-rated messages” and “sordid photos.” Roddy Dunlop QC, for the “News of the World”, said the paper had been “victim of a highly complex deceit by one man.” He accepted that it was “entirely taken in by this fraud“:
“A highly believable web was woven … with many inter-linked strands which appeared to corroborate the story and it was only when the phone details began to emerge that the tissue of lies was revealed.”
There is a discussion of the case on the Greenslade Blog where it is pointed out that the “News of the World’s” admission also involves an implicit admission that it had concocted quotes in the story.
Two interesting threatened libel claims can be mentioned. The first by the Government of Bahrain against the “Independent” over its coverage of events in that country during the “Arab Spring” was described by the newspaper as a “half-cocked PR stunt”. Well, states cannot bring actions for libel but individuals can and any member of the Bahrain government defamed in the Independent would, in theory, have a claim. It would be interesting to see it litigated! Secondly, it is reported that a leading Scots lawyer, Tony Kelly, is to sue the First Minister, Alex Salmond, over ill-tempered remarks in an interview calling the lawyer’s professional integrity into account (the same interview which included attacks the Scots judges of the Supreme Court).
We have already posted on a number of “phone hacking” issues this week – on the evidence before the Home Affairs Select Committee from the phone companies and on the “adjudication” scheme and calls for a public inquiry. The Greenslade Blog draws attention to an Independent on Sunday item to the effect that News International has paid money to the News of the World’s assistant editor Ian Edmondson since he was fired.
The Meejaw Law blog’s “Media law mop up” this week is “Facebook contempt; Giggs’ phone hacking claim; Broccoli wins libel payout
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
A statement in open court was made by the James Bond films producer Barbara Broccoli in a libel action against the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday over stories which suggested she had improperly obtained a grant from the UK Film Council. There is a report in the Press Gazette. The Mail also published an apology which is discussed on the Tabloid Watch blog.
Journalism and the PCC
According to the “Daily Mail” the Ministry of Justice is considering sending libel claimants to the Press Complaints Commission for arbitration. This idea has been floated by Lord MacNally and is discussed on the Greenslade Blog and in the Press Gazette.
On 16 June 2011 the BBC Trust ruled that Panorama had broken editorial guidelines of fairness and accuracy in its programme Primark: “On The Rack”. It held that it was ‘more likely than not’ that certain footage in the programme was not authentic. There is a discussion of the decision on the 5RB website. Roy Greenslade did not like the decision – concluding that the BBC Trust was “wholly wrong” and suggesting that reporter, Dan McDougall, might be contemplating judicial review or an action for libel.
The Media Blog points out the unhealthy obsession of the “Daily Star” with the footballer Ryan Giggs – with the last 12 editions having him on the front page.
In the Courts
On 15 June 2011 Mr Justice Tugendhat gave judgment in the case of Cook v Telegraph Media Group  EWHC 1519 (QB) – dismissing the former MP’s libel claim on the basis that the words were comment and the defence of malice failed.
On Friday 17 June 2011, the Court of Appeal gave judgment in the case of R (Gaunt) v OFCOM ( EWCA Civ 692). The Court rejected the appeal brought by former Talksport radio presenter Jon Gaunt against a decision of the media regulator Ofcom which found that a live interview in which he called a councillor a “Nazi” breached the Broadcasting Code. There is a One Brick Court case note on the case and a discussion ont the UK Human Rights Blog.
Events and Broadcasts
No events for next week have been reported to us.
Next Week in the Courts
On Monday 20 June 2011, Mr Justice Vos will hear an application for third party disclosure by the claimants in the “Phone Interception” litigation. The claimants are seeking disclosure of all or most of the file of papers seized by the Metropolitan Police from former private investigator, Glenn Mulcaire.
On Tuesday 21 June 2011, the Court of Appeal (Master of the Rolls, Thomas and Moses LJJ) will hear appeals by the claimants in the cases of Modi v Clarke and IMG v Clarke against rulings of Mr Justice Tugendhat, handed down on 24 May 2011.
On Wednesday 22 June 2011, the Court of Appeal will hear an appeal on disclosure in the case of Thornton v Telegraph Media Group. The order granting permission can be found here.
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 v Foley & ors, heard 7-8 June 2011 (Eady J)