As regular readers will have noticed, we have not posted a “Law and Media Round up” this week. The Easter legal term ended on 1 June 2012 and Inforrm is taking a short break over the Spring Bank and Jubilee Bank Holidays. Regular posting will resume with the Trinity legal term on 12 June 2012 (when our round up will cover a two week period).
During the Easter Legal Term there were four (judge alone) libel trials, with two wins for the claimants, one for the defendant and one in which judgment is awaited. Only one involved a media defendant. In addition, there was one privacy trial, against a media defendant.
The most noteworthy decision was that in Bento v Chief Constable of Bedfordshire ( EWHC1525 (QB)), as it involved a defence of justification in which the defendant set out (unsucessfully) to prove that the claimant was guilty of unlawful killing. The legal interest in the case centred on the unsuccessful qualified privilege defence. Bean J (after his second libel trial of 2012) awarded the claimant recovered damages of £125,000 in respect of a police press release suggesting that he was probably guilty of murder. We had a news report about the case and will publish a full case comment shortly.
The three other libel trials have received less publicity. The case of Miller v Associated Newspapers was a claim against the “Daily Mail”, tried by Sharp J between 21 and 25 May 2012. There was a short news item about the case on the One Brick Court website but very little press coverage. Judgment was reserved.
The trial of Thour v The Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust ( EWHC 1473 (QB)) – a claim by a litigant in person in relation to an employment references – took one hour before Tugendhat J and resulted in judgment for the defendant. There is a One Brick Court case comment.
The final libel trial of the term was the case of Wiseman v Sullivan a claim by a solicitor against a former client concerning defamatory allegations made on posters placed on the defendant’s car (which was parked outside the claimant’s home and office). The trial began before Eady J on 28 May 2012 but settled on 30 May 2012. The defendant agreed to pay damages of £50,000 and indemnity costs. There is a 5RB news item about the case.
Finally, the privacy trial was a claim brought by Chris Huhne MP’s partner Carina Trimingham against Associated Newspapers. It was heard by Tugendhat J. The claim related to 65 articles and three separate statutes: misuse of private information pursuant to the Human Rights Act 1998 and ECHR Art 8; the Protection from Harassment Act 1997; and the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, s.97. The judge dismissed the claim ( EWHC1296 (QB)), finding that “Ms Trimingham was not the purely private figure she claims to be” and that her “reasonable expectation of privacy has become limited“. There was a note about the case on the RPC Privacy Blog.
In our next round up we will have news of a number of libel actions listed for the next legal term – including the first libel jury trial for three years.