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Law and Media Round Up – 21 May 2012

Module three of the Leveson Inquiry is now underway, examining the relationship between press and politicians. Jack Straw, Lord Wakeham, Alastair Campbell and Sir Harold Evans were among the witnesses during the Inquiry’s 19th week, as Natalie Peck summarised here.

Meanwhile, separate to the Inquiry, former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks and a number of others were charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

A 50 year old HM Revenue and Customs employee was arrested last week, as part of Operation Elveden,“on suspicion of misconduct in a public office, contrary to common law and suspicion of corruption under the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906,” reported Press Gazette. “A 43-year-old woman was also arrested at the address on suspicion of aiding and abetting misconduct in a public office and suspicion of money laundering offences under Section 328 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.”

ITN, BBC and Sky have successfully challenged disclosure orders to produce footage of the evictions at the Dale Farm (R (on the application of BSkyB v Chelmsford Crown Court [2012] EWHC 1295 (Admin)). ITN chief executive John Hardie described it in the Guardian as a decision which “underscores the fundamental principle of press independence”. Gervase de Wilde reports on the case for Inforrm here.

Ryan Giggs has settled his phone-hacking damages claim against News Group Newspapers, reports PA Media Lawyer (subscription required) on confidential terms. There are 46 active claims in the second round of phone hacking civil litigation.

A regional newspaper, The Herald, has been awarded £7,358.40 in costs following an unsuccessful demand that it reveal a source for a story, as part of a legal dispute between a former council official and a councillor in Plymouth. HoldtheFrontPage reports on the judgment at Torquay and Newton Abbot County Court here.

Statements in Open Court and Apologies

We are not aware of anything to report in this section (please contact inforrmeditorial@gmail.com with any relevant information).

Journalism and regulation

Last week the Guardian’s readers’ editor, Chris Elliott asked online readers how they defined the public interest. In his Monday column he shares some of the answers from readers and journalists and cites the PCC and BBC guidelines. Elliott says he thinks the PCC definition “is a good one” but agrees with David Leigh, the Guardian’s chief investigations editor, “who suggests that a useful addition to the code would be: ‘Information is in the public interest if it assists in the proper functioning of a democracy‘”.

There has been one new PCC adjudication. In A man v Daily Mail, the complainant claimed that the Daily Mail had obtained material that intruded his private life, breaching clauses 1 (Accuracy), 3 (Privacy), 4 (Harassment), and 10 (Clandestine devices and subterfuge) of the Editors’ Code of Practice. The complaints involved a potential story about a doctor and his alleged activity as a sperm donor.

The man complained that contact was made with three women using “details [that] could only have been obtained by gaining access to digitally-held information without his permission“, although he accepted that the journalist was not directly responsible for accessing this material. The Daily Mail said that it had not commissioned the article from the freelance journalist investigating the story, although it spent four days working on the story with the journalist. The article was never published. The complaint was not upheld. Full decision available at this link.

Last week’s resolved cases include:

Mr John Donovan v Metro, Clause 1, 21/05/2012; Lesley Archer v The Echo (Southend), Clause 1, 18/05/2012; Ms Nicola Searle v South Wales Echo, Clauses 1, 3, 17/05/2012; Mr Liam Fairlie v North Devon Journal, Clause 1, 17/05/2012; Mr Ronald Baird v Northampton Chronicle & Echo, Clause 1, 17/05/2012; Mr Ronald Baird v The Sun, Clause 1, 17/05/2012; Mr Ronald Baird v Daily Mirror, Clause 1, 17/05/2012; Mrs J A Wilkes v Falmouth Packet, Clause 1, 17/05/2012; Ms Maureen Bonner v East Kilbride News, Clause 3, 17/05/2012; Mr David Alasdair Ross v Press & Journal (Aberdeen), Clause 1, 17/05/2012; Mr Paul Brewster v The Independent, Clause 1, 17/05/2012; Cllr Andrew Powell v North Devon Journal, Clause 1, 17/05/2012; Mr Romano Pagliari v Daily Mail, Clause 1, 15/05/2012; A council v Best, Clauses 3, 5, 6, 14/05/2012.

Research & resources

  • The web host’s privilege of limited liability: its application to operators of commentary rooms. Janno Lahe. Karmen Turk. E.R.P.L. 2012, 20(2), 447-472.

In the Courts

On Monday 14 May 2012 Sir Charles Gray heard the pre-trial review in the second trial in the case of WXY v Gewanter. He handed down judgment on Tuesday 15 May 2012.

On Wednesday 16 May 2012 Hooper LJ gave permission to appeal in the case of Iqbal v Manson. The case can be found on Case Tracker.

On Friday 18 May 2012 there was the third Case Management Conference in the Second Tranche of the Voicemail Interception litigation, before Vos J.  The hearing was largely devoted to issues concerning costs.

Events

26 May, 4.30pm: Index on Censorship discussion, in association with Free Word: Where do you draw the line? Brighton Festival (Brighton Dome, Corn Exchange).

30 May, 9am – 7.30pm: Conference: ‘After phone hacking, what next?’ / Charles Wheeler Award, University of Westminster, London.

12 June 2012, all day: The ‘Right to be Forgotten’ and Beyond: Data Protection and Freedom of Expression in the Age of Web 2.0, Oxford Privacy Information Law and Society, Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, Oxford University.

15 June 2012, 11am-17.30pm, Terrorism & Security Research in the UK: Using and Understanding Legal Resources, organised by Law, Terrorism and the Right to Know Project at the University of Reading / Institute of Advanced Legal Studies. IALS, London.

22 June 2012, 10.30am-1pm: Changing the face of freedom, Free Word Centre, London.

28 June 2012, all day, LexisNexis Defamation & Privacy conference, London.

1-27 August, 5pm, Comedy: ‘One Rogue Reporter‘, Rich Peppiatt / Something for the Weekend, Edinburgh Festival.

Know of any media law events happening in June / July? Please let Inforrm know: inforrmeditorial@gmail.com.

Media Law in Other Jurisdictions

Canada: The prime minister of Ottowa, Stephen Harper, is being sued by a former Cabinet minister, Helena Guergis, for “conspiracy, defamation, misfeasance in public office, intentional infliction of mental suffering, and negligence.” His lawyers claim the action is “frivolous, vexatious and an abuse of process.” The National Post has a brief report here.

United States: Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former head of the IMF, has filed a countersuit of defamation against the hotel maid who accused him of sexual assault. She filed a civil lawsuit against him in August, before criminal charges against Strauss-Kahn were dismissed. Counterclaims for defamation, emotional distress, malicious prosecution, abuse of process and false imprisonment have now been filed in Bronx County Supreme Court. Chicago Tribune has a Reuters report here.

South Africa: The ANC has said it “…will go to court after a gallery exhibited a painting with President Jacob Zuma’s genitals hanging out“, according to a BBC report, which notes that Zuma “has sued local media companies 11 times for defamation“, with some settled, others dropped but most outstanding. Daily News has a report here.

Ireland: Political debate has been sparked by communication minister Pat Rabbitte’s involvement in a libel case brought by a retired detective sergeant, Alan Bailey, against the national broadcaster, RTÉ. It was reported to have cost the defendant up to €100,000 in compensation and legal costs, although Rabbitte has rejected this figure, according to the Irish Independent. The case was settled out of court in early May. Rabbitte was not a party in the case but had agreed to appear as a witness.

Next week in the courts

On Monday 21 May 2012 the libel trial of Miller v Associated Newspapers will begin before Sharp J, sitting without a jury. The case arises out of the publication of an article concerning the claimant and Sir Ian Blair in the Daily Mail on 2 October 2008. The case has been the subject of an interim decision on “capability” and meaning ([2010] EWHC 700 (QB)) and a decision as to the actual meaning at the trial of a preliminary issue ([2011] EWHC 2677 (QB)).

On the same day there is an application concerning mode of trial in the case of Lewis v Commissioner of Police before Tugendhat J. There was a previous decision in this case in which the issue of mode of trial was reserved ([2011] EWHC 781 (QB)).

There is also a hearing in the cases of Hunt v Times Newspapers and Hunt v Evening Standard, before Eady J, concerning costs and the trials of the two actions.

On 23 and 24 May 2012 there will be an application in the case of Radford v Frade. This case concerns a dispute between the claimant film director and the film’s producer over a film called “La Mula”. A number of injunctions have been granted to restrain the distribution of the film. Some of the background can be found here.

On Friday 25 May 2012, Tugendhat J will hand down judgment in the case of Trimingham v Associated Newspapers. The Inforrm case preview is here.

On the same day there is an application in the case of McLaughlin v London Borough of Lambeth. There was a judgment in the case dismissing the defendants’ strike out application in November 2010 ([2010] EWHC 2726 (QB)).

There will also be an application in the case of Subotic v Knezevic. The defendant Ratko Knezevic, is an investment banker who was formerly the chief of the Montenegrin trade delegation in Washington, D.C. He is being sued by Stanko Subotic, the “Serb Tobacco King,” in connection with evidence Mr Knezevic gave in a Croatian court during the trial of two mafia suspects subsequently convicted of the murder of a Balkan investigative journalist. The claimant has sued Mr Knezevic along with newspapers and websites that carried remarks the defendant made in open court in Zagreb accusing the claimant of being associated with a “tobacco mafia”.

Next week at the Leveson Inquiry

  • Monday 21st May, 10:00 – 16:30, Tessa Jowell MP; Lord Mandelson
  • Tuesday 22 May, 09:45 – 16:30, Alan Johnson MP; Lord Smith; Tom Watson MP
  • Wednesday 23rd May, 10:00 – 16:30, Stephen Dorrell MP Andrew Marr; Jeremy Paxman; Lord Reid
  • Thursday 24th May, 10:00 – 16:30, Lord Brooke; Frederic Michel; Adam Smith

Next week in Parliament

  • Monday 21 May, 3.30pm, Debate: European Union Data Protection Directive – Motion to take note – Lord McNally, Grand Committee, House of Lords
  • Tuesday 22 May, 11.30am, Home Affairs select committee. Private Investigators
    Witness(es): Dan Morrison, Partner, Grosvenor Law LLP, Julian Pike, Partner, Farrer & co LLP and Mike Schwarz, Partner, Bindmans LLP; Bill Butler, Chief Executive, Security Industry Authority; Lynne Featherstone MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary for equalities and criminal information. Location: Wilson Room, Portcullis House
  • Thursday 24 May, 2.30pm – 5.30pm, Operation of the Family Courts, Westminster Hall, House of Commons

Judgments

The following reserved judgments after public hearings remain outstanding:

Levy v. Coomber heard 9 and 16 November 2011 (HHJ Moloney QC)

El-Naschie v Macmillan, heard 11, 14, 16 to 18, 21, 22, 25, 28-30 November, 1 -2 December 2011 (Sharp J)

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

Chambers v DPP, heard 8 February 2012 (Gross LJ and Irwin J)

Bento v Chief Constable of Bedfordshire, heard 3 April 2012 (Maurice Kay and Hooper LJJ and Henderson J)

Levi v Bates, heard 23-26 April 2012 (HHJ Gosnell)

Bento v Chief Constable of Bedfordshire, heard 24 to 27 and 30 April and 1 to 3, 8 and 9 May 2012 (Bean J)

Phillips v Mulcaire, heard 8 to 10 May 2012 (Supreme Court)

WXY v Gewanter & ors, heard 9 to 11 May 2012 (Slade J)

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. Please send suggestions, tips and event listings for inclusion in future round ups to jt.townend@gmail.com.

1 Comment

  1. jtownend

    Reblogged this on Media law and ethics.

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