This was the week of the opening hearing in the Leveson Inquiry with a constant trickle of other new developments in the phone hacking saga. We posted about the Select Committee hearing and about other developments in the course of the week. Some new, and potentially very important victims have been identified over the weekend.
First, the then Home Secretary, David Blunkett MP. According to the “Daily Telegraph” Operation Weeting detectives have obtained recordings of eight messages left by Mr Blunkett on the mobile phone of a female friend. An interesting development is said to be recordings of a voice – believed to be that of Mr Mulcaire – commenting on the recordings:
“The voice can be heard muttering: “Just say ‘I love you’ and it’s twenty five thousand.” It appears to show Mulcaire’s frustration that the messages are not candid enough to support a story“.
Second, it is reported that the current Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, was also a victim. This report derives from a former prostitute, Natalie Rowe, who in October 2005, came to public attention when a picture of her at a dinner table with George Osborne was published. It is said that she sold her story to the Sunday Mirror but the News of the World managed to publish it on the same day in October 2005. It appears that both Ms Rowe and Mr Osborne have been informed by Operation Weeting officers that they were victims of phone hacking. It is also reported that the BBC is planning a programme about Ms Rowe and her links to the Conservative Party.
Meanwhile, the “Daily Mail” reports that John Yates is still drawing his £185,000 a year salary from the Metropolitan Police, two months after resigning over his role in the phone hacking affair.
On 7 September 2011 the use of Twitter was permitted for the first time in a Court in Northern Ireland. This was mentioned in a Press Release later the same day. It was also noted noted that Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland will consider the use of Twitter and other live text-based forms of communication from court in genera when the results of the consultation by the Judicial Office in England and Wales are known next month.
The Supreme Court will hear the appeal in Flood v Times Newspapers on 17 and 18 October 2001. The panel will be Lords Phillips, Brown, Mance, Clarke and Dyson. The Supreme Court case details are here.
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
We are not aware of any statements in open court this week.
Journalism and the PCC
The PCC has resolved a complaint about photographs of the Duchess of Cambridge’s family. In a thoughtful piece – “PCC Plus – a way to make self-regulation work in the public, and press, interest” – Roy Greenslade. He describes the case as “a classic example of the PCC’s preferred role, acting as a mediator, or arbitrator, rather than a regulator“. He points out that the PCC was unable to investigate the provenance of the photographs. He concludes
“There are plenty of voices calling for the PCC to be killed off and they include people for whom I have great respect – such as Cathcart and Petley (and Martin Moore of the MST). I would prefer to see a PCC Plus, a radically reformed body with selective investigative powers, composed of more ‘lay members’ and with a remit to adjudicate more often. It is time to consider harsher punishments, though I’m doubtful about the imposition of fines. That needs careful thought. A PCC Plus should be both a mediator and a regulator, with the accent on the latter“.
In the Courts
We are not aware of any media law cases heard by the “vacation judges” last week.
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.
We also remind readers of the Annual Conference of the Franco-British Lawyers Society “Privacy in an Open Society” on 23 September 2011 (see our post here).
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
In, United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 401 v. Alberta (Information and Privacy Commissioner), 2011 ABQB 415, the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench has determined that portions of the Personal Information Protection Act (Alberta) (“PIPA”) are unconstitutional. It held that the definition of “publicly available” information was too narrow and violated the Charter right to freedom of expression. There is a post about the decision on the Canadian Privacy Law Blog.
Freedom of expression NGO Article 19 notes a recent case concerning Italian journalists as highlighting the need for serious reform of the country’s criminal defamation legislation to bring it into compliance with the international legal standards on freedom of expression.
Next Week in the Courts
On Tuesday 13 September 2011 Mr Justice Vos will hear a number of applications in the Phone Interception Litigation.
We are not aware of any other media law cases listed for this week. Mr Justice Spencer and Mr Justice Eder will be hearing Interim Applications in the Queen’s Bench Division in London with Mr Justice Vos and Mrs Justice Proudman 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)