Last week was once again dominated by the Leveson Inquiry, with oral evidence from a variety of high profile figures: some famous for their role in entertainment and sport; others thrown into the limelight by traumatic circumstances. Written statements from the witnesses can be found here. Video archive can be found here.
This week’s witnesses included Hugh Grant; Steve Coogan; Garry Flitcroft; Bob and Sally Dowler; Margaret and Jim Watson; Joan Smith; JK Rowling; Max Mosley and Gerry and Kate McCann. Inforrm published reports for day one (Monday 21 November); and days two and three (Tuesday 22 November; Wednesday 23 November).
Hugh Grant’s evidence perhaps provoked the biggest press reaction by suggesting that his phone had been hacked by the Mail on Sunday. Associated Newspapers subsequently “utterly refuted” his allegations – claiming that the story in question had come from a “source close to Jemima Khan” – an explanation Khan herself found implausible.
National fame was foisted upon another Inquiry participant in an unusual way, when Twitterers watching the Inquiry online joked about one of the barristers gazing at Grant during his appearance. The Guardian later apologised for wrongly reporting that The Sun had subsequently doorstepped the junior counsel in question. Inforrm remarked on the bizarre episode here.
Other interesting commentary we have spotted:
- The Guardian’s Dan Sabbagh comments on “a high-court conflict between celebrities and tabloids“;
- Index on Censorship’s John Kampfner explains why “the tabloids don’t get it“;
- David Allen Green argues that the media ethics inquiry “is circumventing the chilling power of the tabloids”.
- Roy Greenslade took issue with the Independent’s Stephen Glover, who had argued “no private life should be entirely off-limits”.
- Greenslade also posted an article looking at the newspapers’ “sins of omission” in their Leveson reporting.
In other Leveson-related news: Glenn Mulcaire has – via his solicitor – denied deleting Milly Dowler’s voicemail messages. Press Gazette reports that the Culture, Media and Sport Committee has asked for Neville Thurlbeck’s allegations published on the publication’s website to be entered as evidence. It also reports that a man, 52, has been arrested by the Metropolitan Police as part of its investigation into computer hacking, Operation Tuleta. Out-Law.com has a report here.
On Sunday, Guido Fawkes released a preview of Alastair Campbell’s evidence to the Inquiry, stating that he had acquired it by “legal means”. Paul Staines, who runs the blog, will now be required to appear before the Inquiry. On Twitter, Campbell said:
“Genuinely shocked someone has seen fit to leak my statement to Leveson. Less surprised that Guido Fawkes headline misrepresents it”.
Other media law news
The Attorney General, Dominic Grieve will bring a contempt of court action against the Daily Mirror and Daily Mail for their coverage of Levi Bellfield’s conviction for the murder and abduction of Milly Dowler. As noted in our events section below, the Attorney General will speak at City University London on 1 December.
Press Gazette reports that the Times has received “injunction threats” from lawyers acting for the Rugby Players’ Association over stories about the English Rugby team’s World Cup performance.
Wednesday November 23 was the inaugural International Day to End Impunity, “a call to action to demand justice for those who have been killed for exercising their right to freedom of expression and shed light on the issue of impunity“. Index on Censorship ran a month’s worth of articles, highlighting numerous international cases, which can be found at this link.
Judges gave evidence to the Joint Committee for Privacy and Injunctions last Monday and an uncorrected transcript is available here (PDF). The committee heard from The Sir Nicholas Wall P, Mr Justice Baker; Lord Neuberger MR and Mr Justice Tugendhat.
Uncorrected evidence from the 14 November 2011 (PDF): session has now been published. It featured: Paul Staines, Editor, ‘Guido Fawkes’; Jamie East, Managing Editor, ‘Holy Moly’; David Allen Green, ‘Jack of Kent’ blog and legal correspondent of the New Statesman; Richard Wilson, Blogger and tweeter, ‘Don’t Get Fooled’; Sir Christopher Meyer, Former Chairman of the PCC; Martin Moore, Director of the Media Standards Trust; Julian Petley, Chair of the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom; John Kampfner, Index on Censorship.
Meanwhile, the House of Lords Communications committee heard from journalist Andrew Gilligan, who argued that the phone hacking scandal was not a failure of regulation. “There already is a rather strong regulation against hacking people’s telephones – the law. It was the failure of the police to enforce the law.” Gilligan has written about his evidence on the Telegraph website. The committee has published further uncorrected transcripts:
22 November 2011 (PDF): Mr Phil Hall, former Editor, News of the World Mr Andrew Gilligan, London Editor, Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph Sir Harold Evans, Editor-at-Large, Thomson Reuters, and Mr Stephen J Adler, Editor-in-Chief, Thomson Reuters.
15 November 2011 (PDF): Mr Tony Close, Head of Standards, Ofcom, and Mr David Mahoney, Head of Content Policy, Ofcom Ms Geraldine Allison, President, the Newspaper Society, and Mr Edmund Curran OBE, Member, the Newspaper Society Mr Paul Lewis, Special Projects Editor, the Guardian.
The House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport select committee has launched a new inquiry into media plurality: written evidence must be submitted before 19 January 2012. Its questions include
“whether there are sufficient safeguards to the editorial independence of news and current affairs coverage; the extent to which requirements for accuracy and impartiality in broadcast news serves to protect or inhibit plurality“.
More information at this link.
A man who posted a video of his stepmother dancing on a seat in the lobby of Truro Crown Court, Cornwall, will not face contempt proceedings after making a written apology. BBC News has a report here.
The Twitter user who published restricted details during Vincent Tabak’s trial for the murder of Joanna Yeates will not be prosecuted for contempt of court. BBC News reports here.
A Hertfordshire coroner has found that former News of the World reporter and whistleblower Sean Hoare used alcohol “as a crutch” to cope with stress generated by the phone hacking scandal. PA Media Lawyer reports here (£££) or the BBC has a report here. Hoare was found to have died from natural causes in July 2011.
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
The BBC has apologised to Basildon Council following a complaint about a One Show report on the Dale Farm evictions earlier this year. The BBC Trust’s report can be found at this link. PA Media Lawyer (£££) reports that the BBC Trust found the report was: “duly accurate” and “had not knowingly and materially misled its audiences”. But it said the programme “failed to clarify that the site had been developed on green belt land”.
Journalism and the PCC
Press Gazette reports that the Guardian has amended a headline about the Mark Duggan shooting but stands by its original story, following a complaint to the PCC by the Metropolitan Police.
A comment piece on HoldtheFrontPage asks whether new teacher anonymity provisions enforced by the Education Act 2011, could be “the thin end of the wedge”.
Professor Lorna Woods raises the question of whether Sky is a “fit and proper person” to hold a broadcasting licence, on the City Legal Research blog.
Reuters reports that BSkyB “has appointed external lawyers to review the emails of some of its most successful journalists to check there were no signs of illegal newsgathering”.
The Wall Street Journal has published extracts from an interesting debate asking ‘How Much Should People Worry About the Loss of Online Privacy?’
The PCC published two adjudicated decisions this week:
“Mr Andreas Antoniou complained to the Press Complaints Commission that an article headlined “I’m scared I’ll never see my little boy again”, published in Woman on 14 March 2011, was inaccurate and misleading in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice. The complaint was upheld.” Full ruling at this link.
“Miss Sharon Clark complained to the Press Complaints Commission that an article headlined “Dad dies trying to save daughter”, published in the Maidenhead Advertiser on 21 July 2011, included a photograph of her daughter without consent in breach of Clause 6 (Children) of the Editors’ Code of Practice. The complaint was upheld.” Full ruling at this link.
The PCC also published the following “resolved” cases on 25 November: Sir Alan Davies Daily Mail, Clause 10; Kenneth Brewster The Sun, Clause 1; Adam Bradford The Star (Sheffield), Clause 1; Karen Coleman Brentwood Gazette, Clause 1; CLEAR The Sun, Clause 1; Mrs Maria Blamires Daily Mail, Clause 5; Mrs Maria Blamires Daily Mirror, Clause 5; Lord Triesman The Mail on Sunday, Clauses 1, 3 and 10; Resolved – London Borough of Sutton v Sutton Advertiser Sutton Advertiser, Clause 1
In the Courts
The trial in the case of El-Naschie v Macmillan continued before Mrs Justice Sharp on 21, 22 and 25 November 2011. The trial continues.
On Thursday 24 November 2011 Mr Justice Tugendhat heard Cooper & anr v Turrell an assessment of damages in a libel case. Judgment was reserved.
On Friday 25 November 2011 Mr Justice Eady gave a judgment in private in the case of CTB v News Group Newspapers. It was reported that an application by the second defendant, Imogen Thomas, was dismissed.
On the same day HHJ Parkes QC gave judgment in the case of Davison v Habeeb  EWHC 3031 (QB) – dealing with interesting issues concerning the potential liabilities of “Blogger.com”. We will have a post about this case later in the week.
Upcoming hearings in Parliament
28 November 2011, 2:15 pm, Joint Committee into Privacy and Injunctions. Witness(es): Professor Andrew Murray, Professor of Law, London School of Economics; Dr Ian Brown, Senior Research Fellow, Oxford Internet Institute; Ashley Van Haeften, trustee, Wikimedia UK; Nicholas Lansman, secretary general, Internet Service Providers Association (at 2:15); Richard Desmond, chairman, Northern & Shell Network Ltd; Paul Ashford, editorial director, Northern & Shell Network Ltd; Hugh Whittow, editor, Daily Express (at 3:15). Location: The Boothroyd Room, Portcullis House.
29 November 2011, 3:15 pm, House of Lords Communications Committee – the future of investigative journalism. Witness(es): (at 3.30pm) Jeremy Hunt MP, Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, Department for Culture, Media and Sport; and (at 4.30pm) Mr Al Anstey, Managing Editor, and Mr Diarmuid Jeffreys, Senior Programme Editor, Al Jazeera; and Mr Chris Birkett, Executive Editor, Sky News. Location: Room 2, Palace of Westminster.
30 November, 18:30, Charlie Beckett, ‘Wikileaks: News in the Networked Era‘, LSE
1 December, 18:30, Attorney General Dominic Grieve, ‘Contempt – A Balancing Act’, City University London
12 December 2011, 1930 Westminster Skeptics “Thinking critically about privacy and libel law” with David Allen Green, The Monk Exchange, Strutton Ground, London
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
In Cummings v Fairfax Digital Australia & New Zealand Pty Ltd  ACTSC 188 the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory dismissed applications by a defendant in a libel action to strike out various imputations as not being defamatory.
In Sands v State of South Australia  SASCFC 136 the Full Court of the Supreme Court of South Australia refused the plaintiff permission to appeal on points relating to the amendment of pleadings.
A research scientist is suing Google in Australia after the search engine refused to remove material from an international ‘Rip Off’ site. The Australian has a report here.
A human rights activist, Ales Bialiatski, has been sentenced to 4.5 years in prison in Belarus, reports Index on Censorship.
Index also has a commentary on the new law in South Africa, The Protection of State Information Bill – passed last week.
Russia has decriminalised defamation, following amendments to the Criminal Code, which will come into force in 2013.
SearchEngineWatch reports that an Irish hotel has dropped its defamation case against Google – over its “autocomplete” terms.
Next week in the courts and the Leveson Inquiry
The Leveson inquiry will hear evidence from 11 witnesses, from Charlotte Church to Richard Thomas – set out in a provisional list.
The trial in El-Naschie v Macmillan continues before Mrs Justice Sharp in Court 12. Inforrm had a report on this case here.
On Monday 28 November 2011 a very strong Court of Appeal (Lord Judge LCJ, Lord Neuberger MR and Maurice Kay LJ (V-P) will hear the appeals in Phillips v NGN and Coogan v NGN against orders of Mr Justice Vos in phone hacking claims (see  EWHC 349 (Ch))
On the same day Mr Justice Eady will hear an application in the case of McKeown v Attheraces Ltd.
The following reserved judgments after public hearings remain outstanding:
WXY v Gewanter, heard 11-15, 18-19 July 2011 (Slade J)
Morrison v Buckinghamshire CC, heard 20 to 21 July (HHJ Parkes QC)
Miller v Associated Newspapers, heard 13 October and 11 November 2011 (Tugendhat J)
Flood v Times Newspapers, heard 17 and 18 October 2011 (Supreme Court)
Cambridge v Makin, heard 3 November 2011 (Hughes, Black and Tomlinson LJJ)
Berzevoksy v Terluk, heard 1, 2 and 3 November 2011 (The Chancellor, Laws and Rafferty LJJ).
McGrath v Dawkins and another, heard 10 and 11 November 2011 (HHJ Moloney QC).
Levy v. Coomber heard 9 and 16 November 2011 (HHJ Moloney QC).
Also on Inforrm last week
Opinion: Leveson inquiry must not kill genuine investigative journalism. Alex Bailin QC looks at the wider picture.
Another petty act of press intimidation. Professor Brian Cathcart responds to press reports about a recent meeting of phone hacking claimants.
Should journalists have privileges? Part One: Journalists and Citizens. Hugh Tomlinson QC considers the legal position for “citizen journalists”.
This week’s Round Up was compiled for Inforrm by Judith Townend, a freelance journalist and PhD researcher examining legal restraints on the media, who runs the Meeja Law blog. She is @jtownend on Twitter.