British and global media maintained its interest in the Leveson Inquiry for another week, following evidence by Chris Jefferies, Charlotte Church, Anne Diamond, former News of the World journalist Paul McMullan and Alastair Campbell. The Inquiry also heard from Alexander Owens, former ICO senior investigating officer who claimed the former deputy head of the ICO refused to pursue media organisations over the illegal purchase of confidential information because they were “too big“. Owen’s evidence can be found at this link.
Following the early leak of Alastair Campbell’s evidence last week, Lord Justice Leveson made an order preventing the publication of witness statements [PDF] “until they are formally put into evidence“. Guido Fawkes has removed the evidence from his website and the document sharing site, Scribd. The blog’s publisher, Paul Staines, reports he will no longer be required to attend the Inquiry.
The Inquiry has updated its website to indicate that it “will be considering issues related to the press and the public (module 1) until the end of January“, although “due to the very large volume of evidence we are receiving, it would help to receive evidence by end December“.
Inforrm has posted a reflection on the past fortnight’s “crash course” on the ways of the tabloids, with evidence from 20 “victims” of phone hacking, media intrusion or both, as well as lawyers and journalists. Dr Damian Tambini reflects on the Inquiry’s procedural limitations in this piece for the LSE Media Policy blog.
The former Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner John Yates, who resigned amid the phone hacking scandal earlier in 2011, “has been appointed to oversee reform of the police force in Bahrain,” reports the Press Association.
A university lecturer and former tabloid reporter, Bethany Usher, was arrested on 30 November, over phone-hacking at the News of the World. She has asserted her innocence in a statement, quoted here by Press Gazette. It is the 17th arrest made by the Met’s Operation Weeting, but nobody has yet been charged, reports the BBC.
The Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, outlined his Contempt actions to date, in a speech at City University London last Thursday. The full text can be found here. His warning about the “open question” of whether “something said in Parliament in breach of a court order may be repeated in the press” attracted the most attention by news organisations.
Mr Justice David Richards has said that written skeleton arguments in civil litigation are not confidential, ahead of HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) case against the Football League over the football creditors rule. There is a report by PA Media Lawyer.
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
Tabloid Watch reports that “three weeks after the event but, coincidentally, one day before she appeared at the Leveson Inquiry, the People published an apology to Charlotte Church over the false claim that she had drunkenly proposed to her boyfriend”. Full post at this link.
Katie Price has agreed to pay undisclosed libel damages to her ex-husband, Peter Andre, over claims that he was unfaithful to her, reports the BBC. “Mr Andre accepted a public apology from Ms Price at the High Court in London”.
Journalism and the PCC
The Observer’s readers’ editor, Stephen Pritchard, discusses a recent piece about a terminally ill child in his column at this link. He describes that bloggers and science writers took issue with the way the feature had featured “a highly controversial cancer treatment, known at antineoplaston therapy“. Online writers reportedly received legal threats from an individual employed by the clinic in question (his professional contract now appears to have been terminated). The blog Quackometer has responded to the Observer’s latest piece at this link.
In the Courts
The trial in the case of El-Naschie v Macmillan continued before Mrs Justice Sharp last week. The trial has now concluded.
On Monday 28 and Tuesday 29 November 2011 the Court of Appeal (Lord Judge LCJ, Lord Neuberger MR and Maurice Kay LJ) heard the appeals in Phillips v NGN and Coogan v NGN against orders of Mr Justice Vos in phone hacking claims (see  EWHC 349 (Ch)). Judgment was reserved.
A number of judgments were handed down this week. On 30 November 2011 Mr Justice Tugendhat handed down two short public judgments in privacy cases (QWE v SDF  EWHC 3121 (QB) and STU v UVW  EWHC 3133 (QB). Press Gazette has a report here.
The same judge made the judgment in Miller v Associated Newspapers ( EWHC 2677 (QB)) available last week. He also handed down judgment in the case of Coward v Harradan ( EWHC 3092 (QB)). This was a remarkable dispute concerning costs in a case formerly known as BWN v MWB – in which Mrs Justice Sharp gave a public judgment on 13 April 2011 and another on 20 April 2011.
12 December 2011, 19:30 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 The Korean Times Pty Ltd & Anor v Un Dok Pak  NSWCA 365 the Court of Appeal in New South Wales upheld the trial judge’s ruling on qualified privilege but reduced the damages awarded from Aus$100,000 to Aus$80,000.
In LVMH Watch & Jewellery Australia Pty Limited v Michael Lassanah & Ors  NSWCA 370 the Court of Appeal in New South Wales allowed an appeal on the issue of qualified privilege and set aside the judgment in favour of the plaintiffs. We will post a case comment on this interesting decision shortly.
In RSPCA (NSW) v Davies  NSWSC 1445, Latham J awarded the RSPCA in NSW damages of Aus$100,000 for defamatory material posted on a website authored by retired “forensic computer detective” Mal Davies. Noting that the RSPCA was a not-for-profit organisation, which is “heavily reliant on its reputation to carry out its day-to-day functions“, her Honour assessed damages at $100,000. The judgment stated:
“The publication strikes at the heart of its functions and has a real capacity to affect the flow of revenue from donors in the wider community, even though a reduction in funding from private sources has not yet materialised.”
In Maietti v Riccardi  VSC 620 the Supreme Court of Victoria made an order striking out of part of the statement of claim in a defamation case.
Next week in the courts
The Leveson inquiry will hear evidence from seven witnesses and a number of as yet unidentified academics – set out in a provisional list, including Francis Aldhouse, Alex Owens (ex- ICO); Peter Burden (Monday); Chris Atkins; David Leigh (Guardian) and Steven Nott (Tuesday) and Richard Thomas CBE (ex-ICO) (Friday).
On 5 December 2011 Mr Justice Tugendhat will hear the application on the return date in the privacy case of QWE v SDF & ors.
On 7 December 2011 Mr Justice Tugendhat will hand down judgment in the case of Law Society v Kordowski. The same day the Court of Appeal (the Master of the Rolls, Sullivan and Black LJJ) will hear an application for permission to appeal in the case of Hutcheson v Popdog Ltd. Details can be found on Case Tracker.
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)
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).
Cooper v Turrell, heard 24 November 2011 (Tugendhat J)
McKeown v Attheraces Ltd, heard 28 November 2011 (Eady J)
Phillips v NGN, heard 28 and 29 November 2011 (Judge CJ, Neuberger MR, Kay V-P)
El-Naschie v Macmillan, heard 11, 14, 16 to 18, 21, 22, 25, 28-30 November, 1 -2 December 2011 (Sharp J)
Also on Inforrm last week
News: Defamation in Israel – are the proposed amendments to the law objectionable? This Inforrm post questions whether changes to Israeli defamation law really are a fetter on freedom of expression.
Opinion: “Leveson: it’s all really about privacy (so start with that)”. Professor George Brock outlines his vision for the future of media law and regulation, a “package” including a “new and more detailed privacy law”.
Case Law: F v G – Anonymity Orders and Extended Restricted Reporting Orders in the Employment Tribunals. Barrister Claire Darwin looks at a recent employment tribunal case and the arrival of the “Extended Restricted Reporting Order”.
Case Law: Davison v Habeeb & Ors. Gervase de Wilde examines the liability of blog platforms in defamation cases.
Practice Guidance on Interim Applications to Restrain the Publication of Information. Brid Jordan, senior associate at RPC, examines Lord Neuberger’s guidance that came into effect in August 2011.
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.