It was a busy media law week at the Royal Courts of Justice, with the seventh week of the Leveson Inquiry and the settlement of 37 phone hacking cases against News International. Inforrm had a report of the week at Leveson compiled by Natalie Peck, here. It included evidence from the editor of Private Eye, Ian Hislop, magazine and regional press editors, which provided perspectives outside “Fleet Street”.  This included evidence from Maria McGeoghan, editor of the Manchester Evening News, who said: “I think there has been a backlash [against the media]. I’ve lost count now of the number of times I’ve been asked how you hack a phone or what the going rate for paying off a policeman is and it’s not funny anymore“. HoldtheFrontPage has a comment piece on the regional evidence here.

Associated Newspaper’s application to for judicial review of Lord Justice Leveson’s ruling on the admission of anonymised evidence was rejected by the Administrative Court last Friday. Inforrm has a commentary on the decision here.

The Guardian reported extensively on the NI settlements, and reproduced statements in open court here. Nineteen individuals “did not wish to make a statement or have details of their settlement made public,” but “the settlements are likely to have cost the News of the World publisher a total of more than £1m,” the newspaper reported.

PA Media Lawyer reports there are 10 cases, including Charlotte Church’s, which have not yet been formally settled and will be tried on February 13. On Inforrm, Brian Cathcart argued

it took courage for these people to sue, and collectively they made the difference between News International escaping scot free and what we have now: substantial police investigations, a couple of dozen arrests, and the historic and far-reaching Leveson Inquiry“.

The Observer’s Peter Preston took a look at the wider picture, pointing out

the nature of this miserable affair, in short, goes deeper than Leveson. It involves punishment, not prescription. It deals in law that already exists, not fresh rules for a refurbished game.”

David Allen Green has been vigorously pursuing the question of a hacked email account at the Times, and his post on the matter was cross-posted on Inforrm here. Green has published a timeline of events concerning the unmasking of the NightJack blogger by the Times, on his personal blog here.

HoldtheFrontPage reports that Keith Hart, a reporter at the Dartford Messenger successfully challenged a Section 39 court order at Maidstone Crown Court which would have prevented the naming of a mother in a child cruelty case.

Tim Turner’s 2040 Info Law blog has a fascinating post about the ICO’s decision not to prosecute newspapers which employed the private investigator Steve Whittamore. Turner has attempted to obtain information relating to the decision – without much success.

Inforrm published the answers to its annual quiz, and announced that there was a clear winner with an impressive 100% of correct answers – Mr Benjamin Pell.

Statements in Open Court and Apologies

News Group Newspapers apologised to Paul Gascoigne for a story in the Sun in July 2010 that wrongly alleged that he groped a shop assistant.”The allegation was published in good faith but it was nevertheless false,” Gascgoine’s counsel Richard Pitkethly told the High Court. “Mr Gascoigne did not grope the shop assistant as alleged in the article, or at all, and the defendant now accepts this.” Ben Beabey, solicitor for NGN, apologised for any distress and embarrassment caused. Reports can be found on PA Media Lawyer and the Guardian.

As noted above, there were 18 statements in open court, regarding settlements with News Group Newspapers in the phone hacking litigation. These included: Chris Bryant (MP); Sadie Frost; HJK; Gavin Henson; Ben Jackson; Jude Law; Denis MacShane; Ciara Parkes; Guy Pelly; John Prescott; Tom Rowland; Christopher Shipman; and Joan Smith.

Journalism and the PCC

There are no adjudicated PCC rulings to report, but several “resolved” cases including: Miss Catherine Lemon v Western Daily Press (Clause 1, 20/01/2012); A woman v The People (Clauses 3, 6, 9, 19/01/2012); A woman v Daily Mail (Clauses 3, 6, 9, 19/01/2012); Mr Alan Shannon v Ayr Advertiser (Clause 1, 19/01/2012); Mr Alan Shannon v Sunday Mail (Clause 1, 19/01/2012); Dr Esther Hobson v The Star (Sheffield) (Clause 1, 19/01/2012); A woman v Merthyr Express (Clause 1, 6 19/01/2012); Dr Stephen Marsh-Smith v Trout & Salmon (Clause 1, 19/01/2012); Adam Corlett v Daily Mail (Clause 1, 19/01/2012); Sir Suart Bell MP v Daily Mail (Clause 1, 19/01/2012); The Rt Hon Alex Salmond MSP v Daily Record Daily Record (Clause 1, 19/01/2012); Mrs Tracy Woodward v Daily Mail (Clause 1, 17/01/2012); Ms Cheryl Cole v The People (Clause 1, 16/01/2012).

Tabloid Watch has questioned a Daily Express headline, claiming ‘Daft EU want all plastic shopping bags made illegal’. “It appears that, not for the first time, the Express has, in a front page headline, attributed a point of view to the EU which it hasn’t expressed, simply because it fits the paper’s agenda to do so,” remarks TW.

Research & resources

Morrison & Foerster’s Socially Aware Blog has a useful run-down of key moments in the history of social media law, from 1984 to the present day.

Nick Cohen’s new polemical book, ‘You Can’t Read This Book: Censorship in an Age of Freedom‘ was published by 4th Estate on 19 January 2012. An extract concerning defamation and libel had already appeared in the Observer last Sunday, but the book’s remit is far wider, with exploration of religious fanaticism as well as recent developments in privacy law. It also provides a detailed history of the Satanic Verses affair in 1988, which was back in the news last week, with reports that Salman Rushdie has cancelled his appearance at the Jaipur Literary Festival, after receiving intelligence that he may be the target of assassination.

The LSE based thinktank Polis has published a new report, ‘Is Comment Free? Ethical, editorial and political problems of moderating online news’ by Sanna Trygg, a visiting research fellow, that compares the moderation of news in Sweden and the UK. Download the full report here.

In the Courts

On 18 January 2012, HHJ Parkes QC gave judgment in the case of WXY v Gewanter (on an appeal from Master Eyre, after a private hearing). On the same day, Mr Justice Tugendhat reserved judgment in the case of Lord Ballyedmond & anr v Trimble

On Thursday 19 January 2012 Mr Justice Vos heard the pre-trial review in the phone hacking litigation. A number of settlements were announced and 18 statements in open court were read. Mr Justice Vos also granted an application for specific disclosure by the Claimants and gave judgment.  On the same date HHJ Parkes reserved judgment in the case of Woodrow v Johansson

On 20 January 2012, the Administrative Court handed down judgment in the R (Associated Newspapers) v Lord Justice Leveson ([2012] EWHC 57 (Admin)). The application for judicial review of the Inquiry’s ruling on anonymity was dismissed. We had a comment on the case.  On the same date HHJ Parkes QC heard a “Norwich Pharmacal” application in the case of Patel v Unite.

The Sunday Times abandoned its application for judicial review of decision requiring it to disclose emails relating to Chris Huhne MP to the police which was due to be heard in the Administrative Court. There was a report of this in the Guardian.


25 -29 January 2012. Centre for Investigative Journalism annual film week. Series of investigative films, followed by a Q&A session with the filmmakers. On Saturday 28 January, after the screening of The Whistleblower, there will be a networking party with opportunity to talk to the filmmakers and other journalists. City University London.

7 February 2012, The Media Society ‘The Phone Hacking Scandal: Journalism at the crossroads

8 February 2012, UCL/Bindmans Annual Debate ‘Freedom of the Press versus Privacy Rights: Time for Parliament to draw the line?

29 February 2012, 9am-2pm. ‘Justice Wide Open’. Half-day seminar on legal knowledge in a digital age, with speakers including Geoffrey Robertson QC, Hugh Tomlinson QC, Heather Brooke, Mike Dodd and Adam Wagner. Free to attend, but participants must register here. City University London.

Media Law in Other Jurisdictions

On Wednesday 18 January websites in the US and other parts of the world – including Wikipedia – took part in a blackout in opposition to forthcoming US legislation, known as PIPA (The PROTECT IP Act) and SOPA (The Stop Online Piracy Act). The Berkman Center for Internet & Society has a useful round up of related commentary here.

A court in Illinois has ruled that the US-based technology blog, TechnoBuffalo, does not qualifiy for state shield law and must disclose its source’s identity. “The decision against the consumer electronics blog TechnoBuffalo comes just one month after a federal district court in Oregon made a similar ruling regarding a Montana blogger, finding that she did not qualify as a journalist under Oregon’s reporter’s shield lawreports RCFP.

In Canada, the Quebec Court of Appeal has upheld a defamation judgment that awarded over Can$250,000 damages to a school teacher. Parents Hagop Artinian and Kathryn Rosenstein were found to have defamed their son’s former teacher Mary Kanavaros in 2010, for comments made to the media. The Montreal Gazette has a report here.

In July 2011, the editor of newspaper El Universo and three executives received prison sentences and were ordered to pay $40 million for defaming the president of Ecuador Rafael Corre, as reported here by the Committee to Protect Journalists. Now, the case is due for appeal and CPJ has published another commentary, which arguesthe ramifications are enormous for free expression in Ecuador: The verdict, if upheld by the high court, could bankrupt the newspaper, put its managers in jail, and send a chill quashing dissent for years to come“.

Next week in the courts

On Monday 23 January 2012 Mr Justice Tugendhat (sitting without a jury) will hear the first libel trial of the year, Rothschild v Associated Newspapers. The trial is listed for 5 days. There was an interim judgment on 21 December 2011 which explains the issues and the background to the case ([2011] EWHC 3462 (QB)).

On Tuesday 24 January 2012 HHJ Parkes QC will hear applications in the cases of Singh v Singh (a 10 day judge alone trial is listed for later this term) and Carroll v Milne.

Next week in Parliament

Monday 23 January 2012, 2.15pm: Joint Committee on Privacy and Injunctions. Witness(es): Sly Bailey, chief executive, Trinity Mirror, Marcus Partington, group legal director, Trinity Mirror Richard Wallace, editor, Daily Mirror (at 2:15); Martin Clarke, Publisher, Mail Online Edward Roussel, Digital Editor, Telegraph Media Group Philip Webster, editor, Times Online (at 3:15pm). Location: The Boothroyd Room, Portcullis House.

Next week at Leveson

Monday 23 January, 10:00 – 16:30: John Battle (ITN) Jim Gray (C4 News) Lord Patten (BBC) Mark Thompson (BBC). To be taken as read – BBC: Greg Dyke, Nicholas Eldred
Robert Peston, Nicholas Robinson, Richard Watson. ITN: Tom Bradby, Maggie Carver, Gary Gibbon, John Hardie, David Mannion. SKY: Matthew Hibbert.

Tuesday 23 January, 10:00 – 16:30: Inayat Bunglawala (Engage), Fiona Fox (Science Media Centre), Heather Harvey (Eaves Housing for Women), Jonathan Heawood (PEN), Anna Van Heeswijk (Object), Jacqui Hunt (Equality Now), John Kampfner (Index on Censorship), Marai Larasi (End Violence against Women), Gary O’Shea (News International), Ryan Parry (Trinity Mirror) and Stephen Waring (News International).

Wednesday 24 January, 10:00 – 13:00: David Allen Green (Jack of Kent)
Mazher Mahmood (tbc). 2pm: Directions Hearing for Module 2.

Thursday 25 January, 10:00 – 16:30: Richard Allan (Facebook) David-John Collins (Google), Christopher Graham (ICO), Jonathan Grun (PA), Daphne Keller (Google), Camilla Wright (Popbitch).


The following reserved judgments after public hearings remain outstanding:

WXY v Gewanter, heard 11-15, 18-19 July 2011 (Slade 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)

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).

Phillips v NGN, heard 28 and 29 November 2011 (Judge LCJ, 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)

Hunt v Times Newspapers, heard 19 December 2011 (Eady J)

Lord Ballyedmond & anr v Trimble, heard 18 January 2012 (Tugendhat J)

Woodrow v Johansson, heard 19 January 2012 (HHJ Parkes QC)

Also on Inforrm last week

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.