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.
This was the third week of the “phone hacking firestorm”. This was the week of the “Super Tuesday” of Parliamentary Committees. It was the week in which Rupert and James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks gave evidence to the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee. The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and Assistant Commissioner John Yates both resigned and then later gave evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee. On the Wednesday this Committeee issued a report which was highly critical of the police and their investigation into phone hacking. Parliament sat an extra day to debate the phone hacking affair
There has been continuing fall out from these hearings. News Corporation announced that it would no longer pay the legal fees of convicted phone-hacker Glenn Mulcaire. Two News of the World executives cast doubt on the evidence of James Murdoch – who, in turn, “stood by” what he told the committee.
Meanwhile, there have been a number of allegations of the involvement of other newspapers – notably the Mirror titles – in phone hacking. On Friday the “Newsnight” programme reported on what it claims was widespread use of phone hacking and private detectives at the Sunday Mirror. As the “New York Times” reported, James Hipwell, a former journalist at The Daily Mirror, a tabloid edited by Mr. Morgan until 2004, now says that phone hacking was “endemic” at the paper. The Mirror has denied these allegations.
We can mention just two of the many further developments in the story over the past week. First, it is reported that Press Association reporter Laura Elston, who was arrested last month by police investigating allegations of phone hacking by journalists, will face no further action. Second, the former Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner John Yates has said he is issuing libel proceedings against the Evening Standard in relation to articles published in the Evening Standard on 7 July 2011.
Meanwhile, the Joint Committee on the Draft Defamation Bill continued to hear evidence. On 18 July 2011, the Solicitor-General, Edward Garnier QC, Matthew Parris and the Editor-in-Chief of Associated Newspapers Paul Dacre gave evidence to the Committee. Mr Dacre has categorically denied running stories based on hacked phone messages.
The Meeja Law blog “Mop Up” this week is entitled “Hackgate the movie; courts data contracts; Mensch / Morgan spat”
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
We are not aware of any statements in open court this week.
Journalism and the PCC
The Angry Mob blog has an interesting piece entitled “Dacre’s Little Helper” concerning Stephen Glover’s recent writings about the phone hacking story – which writings have culminated on Thursday with a piece with the remarkable headline “The BBC’s bias has been one of the most shaming aspects of this entire sorry saga”. We make no further comment.
In the Courts
The trials in WXY v Gewanter and Commissioner of Police v Times Newspapers both concluded last week – with judgment being reserved in both cases.
On the same date, Mr Justice King handed down judgment in the privacy case of NEJ v Wood  EWHC 1972 (QB). This judgment appeared only shortly on the Bailii website – but was removed later in the day, apparently because it was a transcript of a judgment given orally and the transcribers retained the copyright. The unfortunate result is that the judgment is not publicly available.
Blogs and Comment
The Privacy International Blog suggests that, in the phone hacking scandal, there is “much worse to come” – drawing attention to a report of the Independent Commission on Corruption in New South Wales which uncovered a large trade in confidential information.
LSE academic Damian Tambini has some interesting reflections on the scope of the Leveson Inquiry on the Guardian Comment pages in a piece entitled “This phone-hacking inquiry must not lose sight of its goal”. He draws attention to one aspect of the terms of reference which might be too restrictive:
“The inquiry team are asked to produce recommendations to support “the integrity and freedom of the press, the plurality of the media, and its independence, including from government, while encouraging the highest ethical and professional standards.” The press, here, are to be free, while the media – presumably broadcasters – are merely independent. While this reflects the old regime there are good reasons to wonder whether this approach should be questioned. Too often, press freedom is a shorthand for anarchic self-regulation rather than subtle balancing that accepts necessary and agreed limits to press freedom, such as the freedom to invade privacy. If “press freedom” is shorthand for a veto on parliament setting out the standards that a self-regulatory body should impose on the press then the term should be jettisoned“.
Papers and Report
There is a paper about recent Canadian case law concerning the protection of journalist’s sources by James Cameron of Osgoode Hall Law School – York University entitled “Of Scandals, Sources, and Secrets: Investigative Reporting, National Post and Globe and Mail”. This available on the SSRN.
The Centre for International Media Assistance has released a new report, Media and the Law: An Overview of Legal Issues and Challenges, by Peter Noorlander, a lawyer specializing in media law and human rights and the legal director of the Media Legal Defence Initiative.
Events and Broadcasts
On 25 July 2011, Lecture by Lord Hoffmann: “Have the European courts gone too far?”, British Friends of the Hebrew University.
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
There were four libel decisions in Australia in the past week. The most interesting is Wendy Hatfield v TCN Channel Nine Pty Ltd  NSWC 737. In this case Simpson J refused to strike out a claim for special damages being “costs incurred prior to the commission of the wrong in question”. She rejected the defendant’s submission that “a plaintiff cannot – ever – recover by way of damages expenses occurred in anticipatory mitigation of damage”.
In Wong v Aripin  WASC 174 Kenneth Martin J in the Supreme Court of Western Australia struck out certain parts of a claim based on words spoken in a foreign language to two persons. In Mizikovsky v Queensland Television Ltd & Ors  QSC 205 Boddice J in the Supreme Court of Queensland dismissed an application that a defamation action should be tried without a jury. In Anthony William Heath v Fairfax Media Publications  NSWSC 742 Nicholas J in the Supreme Court of New South Wales gave permission to amend the Statement of Claim in a defamation action.
Next Week in the Courts
This is the last week of the legal term – traditionally the week when the judges try and clear the decks of reserved judgments. The only one we are presently aware of is to be handed down on Tuesday 26 July 2011 by Mr Justice Tugendhat. This is the judgment after the jury less libel trial of Thornton v Telegraph Media Group, (heard 4 to 6 and 8 July 2011).
On 25 July 2011 His Honour Judge Parkes QC will give directions in the case of Valmonia v Hynes and hear two applications in Iqbal v Monsour & ors
The following reserved judgments after public hearings remain outstanding:
El Diwany v Ministry of Justice & the Police, Norway, heard 16 March 2011 (Sharp J).
Modi v Clarke, heard 22 June 2011 (Master of the Rolls, Thomas and Moses LJJ).
Ferdinand v MGN, heard 4 to 6 July 2011 (Nicol J)
Lait v Evening Standard Limited, heard 4 July 2011 (Master of the Rolls, Laws and Longmore LJJ)
Al Amoudi v Kifle, heard 18 July 2011 (HHJ Parkes QC)
WXY v Gewanter, heard 11-15, 18-19 July 2011 (Slade J)
Commissioner of Police v Times Newspapers, 18-20 & 22 July 2011 (Tugendhat J)
Morrison v Buckinghamshire CC, heard 20 to 21 July (HHJ Parkes QC)