The release of murder suspect Rebecca Leighton this week once again raised questions about press monstering of those arrested for serious crimes. We had a post on this, following up on posts on the Politicised Correctly, Angry Mob and Fleet Street Blues blogs. As Ms Leighton’s solicitor told the BBC she was “made a scapegoat“.
Lord Justice Leveson will hear applications for Core Participant status on Tuesday 6 September at 10.30am in Court 76 at the Royal Courts of Justice. Exceptionally, he will consider applications in writing. He has asked those who wish to make applications to inform the Solicitor to the Inquiry by midday on Monday 5 September 2011 whether they will be represented at the hearing. Core participants are allowed legal representation and may be given the opportunity to challenge evidence submitted by other media organisations. There is a report in the Guardian about the hearing.
On the same day at the same time the House of Commons Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport will hear further evidence from four News International witnesses Jonathan Chapman (former Director of Legal Affairs), Daniel Cloke (former Group HR Director), Colin Myler (former Editor, News of the World) and Tom Crone (former Legal Manager, News Group Newspapers).
In the phone hacking saga, there was a further arrest, number fifteen. The suspect was arrested not just on suspicion of conspiracy to intercept voicemail messages but also on suspicion of attempting to pervert the course of justice. The “Guardian” reported that the arrested man was believed to be Ross Hall, the News of the World journalist who transcribed key “for Neville” email.
A number of new phone hacking victims have been mentioned in the press this week including the James Bulger murderer Robert Thompson (see our post here), Jonathan Ross and Calum Best.
The Guardian reports that the Murdoch family is divided as a result of the News of the World crisis, with James Murdoch no longer seen by all as heir to Rupert’s empire.
The owner and operator of the Solicitors from Hell website has issued proceedings for slander against Law Society chief executive Des Hudson.
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
We are not aware of any statements in open court this week.
The “Daily Mail” has apologised to the actress Vanessa Redgrave and her family over the publication of a false story about her husband and her father. The Tabloid Watch blog points out that this is the paper’s sixth recent apology.
The news and photo agency Splash has issued an apology and has paid damages to David Walliams and Lara Stone in a claim for harassment and invasion of privacy.
Journalism and the PCC
The Guardian reports that two inquiries into the relationship between the police and the media are considering proposals to place police contact with the media under a clear regulatory framework. The first inquiry was ordered by the home secretary and will address “alleged corruption and abuse of power” in police relationships with the media. A second, led by Elizabeth Filkin, the former parliamentary commissioner for standards, aims to draw up a framework for how officers operate in their contact with journalists. Both inquiries are considering proposals that all contact between police – of all ranks – should be regulated and officially recorded by a press officer.
The RPC Media Bulletin has a piece dealing with the intention and purpose behind the establishment of the PCC.
In the Courts
We are not aware of any media law cases heard by the “vacation judges” last week. We note from Bailii that judgment was given in the complex libel case of El-Diwany v Hansen and Ministry of Justice & the Police, Norway ( EWHC 2077 (QB)) on 29 July 2011. The matter was heard on 16 March 2011. Sharp J entered summary judgment for the defendants.
In an article entitled “Chasing Reputation: The Argument for Differential Treatment of ‘Public Figures’ in Canadian Defamation Law” ((2011) 48 OHLJ 595) Bob Tarantino argues that Canadian defamation law should be modified to take account of the unique reputation-creating powers of “public figures” (a category which includes “celebrities”). This is an extract from the abstract
“Fundamental alterations in the nature of mass and interactive media and in the nature of reputation are two phenomena informing [a change in view on the importance of protecting reputation] … Increased attention to the theorizing of “reputation,” the interest whose protection animates the entire tort of defamation, reveals that reputation is itself a highly constructed, contextual, and malleable artifact. This article proposes recasting the tort of defamation into two different tracks: one for public figures, who pose the highest risk of abusing the tort, and one for private plaintiffs, whose reputational interest is akin to traditional notions of reputation“.
No events for the forthcoming week have been reported to us. We draw attention to an event on 20 September 2011 at the Law Society in Chancery Lane on “Privacy, Free Press and the Public Interest” with Gideon Benaim, Jo Glanville, David Leigh and Hugh Tomlinson QC.
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
In Australia, the Court of Appeal of New South Wales dismissed the plaintiff’s appeal in Snedden v Nationwide News Pty Ltd  NSWCA 262. The trial judge had comprehensively dismissed the plaintiff’s claim for libel arising out of the publication of allegations, inter alia, that he was a Serbian death squad commander and condoned rape. The appeal was also comprehensively dismissed. The case is factually complex however, what is striking from our point of view is time between the hearing – on 18-19 November 2010 – and the delivery of judgment – 2 September 2011.
The South Korean Supreme Court has ruled that a television broadcaster was “not guilty” of defaming the South Korean Minister of Agriculture when it suggested that eating imported U.S. beef might expose the consumer to “mad cow” disease. The South Korean government decided to resume importing U.S. beef in 2008. The Court also set aside the order to the network to publish an apology and correct the information in the program. It is unclear from the news reports whether the tv network had originally been charged under the criminal or civil code.
Next Week in the Courts
We are not aware of any media law cases listed for this week. Mrs Justice Thirlwall and Mr Justice Supperstone will be hearing Interim Applications in the Queen’s Bench Division in London with Mr Justice Vos and Mr Justice Newey in the Chancery Division.
The following reserved judgments after public hearings remain outstanding:
Ferdinand v MGN, heard 4 to 6 July 2011 (Nicol J)
WXY v Gewanter, heard 11-15, 18-19 July 2011 (Slade J)
Commissioner of Police v Times Newspapers, heard 18-20 & 22 July 2011 (Tugendhat J)
Morrison v Buckinghamshire CC, heard 20 to 21 July (HHJ Parkes QC)
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