Law and Media Round Up – 11 June 2012

11 06 2012

The round up returns after a bank holiday break last week. Inforrm summarised developments during the Easter Legal Term here: four (judge alone) libel trials, one involving a media defendant, and one privacy trial, against a media defendant.

There is, finally, a libel jury trial listed this term. The case of Luke Cooper v Evening Standard Limited and Associated Newspapers Ltd is due to commence on 18 June 2012. It will be the first libel jury trial for nearly three years.

It was announced that the “Twitter joke” case, Chambers v DPP (heard 8 February 2012) had resulted in an evenly divided court. It has been ordered to be re-tried before a three judge court. There was an Inforrm post about this.

The Spectator magazine admitted a charge under Section 83 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 of breaching a court order, which banned the reporting of certain information until after the trial of Gary Dobson and David Norris for the murder of Stephen Lawrence. It was fined £3,000 and ordered to pay £2,000 to Lawrence’s parents, following the article by freelance contributor Rod Liddle. PA Media Lawyer reported here (subscription required). There were numerous media reports, including in the Guardian here.

Nicola Brookes, 45, from Brighton, has obtained a Norwich Pharmacal Order to compel Facebook to supply details of online users who set up a fake Facebook profile in her name, according to her solicitors Bains Cohen. The Independent has a report on the case here. Meanwhile, comedian Isabel Fay has dedicated a song to “hard working internet trolls everywhere“.

Two former prime ministers and the incumbent will give oral evidence at the Leveson Inquiry next week (see listings below). Natalie Peck summarised the Inquiry’s most recent evidence here for Inforrm: what she describes as one of the biggest weeks of the Leveson Inquiry so far, with appearances from Tony Blair and Jeremy Hunt.

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

Nine resolved cases and two adjudications to report since the last Inforrm round up. Both adjudications were not upheld. The first concerns a complaint made by Andrew Robathan MP that the Sunday Mirror had breached Clause 4 (Harassment) of the code while seeking his comments for an article about a study into the health of nuclear test veterans.

Robathan, the Minister for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans, claimed that on the day before the story was published, as he had left his home by car with his family, two cars followed him for around 13 miles, before he stopped to confront the drivers. The reporter claimed that after he and the photographer failed to attract the MP’s attention at his home, they decided to follow the vehicle and approach him in a public place.

While the Commission had the “strong view” that the decision to follow the complainant and his family was “ill-advised“, the complaint was not upheld: “on this occasion it concluded that the activity did not constitute harassment or persistent pursuit under the terms of the Code“. It did, however, recommend that the Editors’ Code Committee – or its successor – “consider new provisions” for pursuit in a vehicle.

The adjudication can be found here and a PCC press release with a comment on the case can be found here.

The second adjudication concerned a complaint by a former officer of the Northern Ireland Prison Service over articles published in the Sunday Life. She complained over Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 3 (Privacy), 6 (Children) and Clause 10 (Clandestine devices and subterfuge). The Commission did not uphold the complaint as it explains in some detail in its adjudication here.

Resolved cases include: A woman v The People, Clause 1, 3, 6, 07/06/2012; Mr David Wieberg v The Guardian, Clause 1, 06/06/2012; Mary Reid v Daily Record, Clause 1, 01/06/2012; A woman v Kent & Sussex Courier, Clauses 1, 5, 6 31/05/2012; Adam Wood v Yorkshire Evening Post, Clause 1, 30/05/2012; Ms Belinda Cunnison v Berwickshire News, Clause 1, 30/05/2012; Mr Ronald Baird v Daventry Express, Clause 1, 30/05/2012; Ms Helen Belcher v Daily Mail, Clause 1, 29/05/2012; Mr Steve Gillan v The Sun, Clause 1, 28/05/2012.

Research & resources

  • The Spring issue of Northern Ireland Legal Quarterly is defamation themed, including articles by Eric Barendt, Alastair Mullis and Andrew Scott, Russell L Weaver and Paul Tweed.
  • The new issue of the British Journalism Review contains “a valedictory” by the outgoing editor Bill Hagerty, looking back over 10 years finding “similarity in the arguments that have raged across the decade about journalism“. The online site also include an article by Professor Steven Barnett, ‘Public Interest: the public decides‘. It reports a BJR/YouGov poll, which focused on “public attitudes to the publication of stories that contained some element of intrusion into private or corporate life, and how public attitudes varied in terms of the ‘public interest’ vested in each story”.

In the Courts

On Monday 28 May 2012 the libel trial in the case of Wiseman v Sullivan began before Eady J (sitting without a jury). The case settled on 30 May 2012 and the defendant, Colin Sullivan, agreed to pay damages of £50,000 to solicitor Stewart Wiseman. The defendant covered his car with posters and placards which made numerous defamatory allegations and parked it outside the house and workplace of the claimant. There is a 5RB news item about the case and a report in the Daily Mail here.

On 29 May 2012, Tugendhat J gave judgment in Thour v Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust [2012] EWHC 1473 (QB) in a libel action brought by a laboratory assistant against a former employer over a job reference. He found in favour of the defendant, deeming that a defence of qualified privilege was made out in the case and that there was no case of malice to go forward. One Brick Court has a report here. Solicitor’s Journal reports here.

On 1 June 2012, Bean J gave judgment in the case of Bento v Chief Constable of Bedfordshire, (heard 24 to 27 and 30 April and 1 to 3, 8 and 9 May 2012) ([2012] EWHC1525 (QB)). The defences of justification and qualified privilege were unsuccessful and the claimant was awarded damages of £125,000. There was an Inforrm news report on the case and there will be a case comment shortly.

On 7 June 2012, HHJ Gosnell gave judgment in the case of Levi v Bates [pdf] (heard 23-26 April 2012). Mr Levi, the first claimant, succeeded in his claim for harassment and was awarded damages of £10,000 and an injunction for a period of 2 years. There will be Inforrm case comment shortly.

Events

11 June, 14:00 until 17:30, The Sussex Symposium on the Leveson Enquiry, Conference Hall, Jubilee Library, Brighton.

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.

13 June 2012, Media, Power and the Public seminar: ‘What Kind of Power? Media Reform and the Spectre of Democracy’, Dan Hind; ‘Renewing the Public Interest’, Professor Natalie Fenton. Coordinated Committee for Media Reform in conjunction with the Hacked Off campaign. The Centre for Creative Collaboration, 16 Acton Street, London WC1X 9NG.

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

26 June 2012, 6pm, Media, Power and the Public seminar: ‘Can the Media be Co-operative?’, Dave Boyle. Coordinated Committee for Media Reform in conjunction with the Hacked Off campaign. Centre for Creative Collaboration, 16 Acton Street, Kings Cross, London WC1X 9NG.

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 / August? Please let Inforrm know: inforrmeditorial@gmail.com.

Media Law in Other Jurisdictions

India: An ex-Army chief V K Singh and four senior serving officers, will appear in court accused of misusing their official positions, power and authority to defame Lt General (retd) Tejinder Singh, according to the Times of India. India Today reports here. Inforrm has previously reported on the case here.

Australia: The Defamation Watch blog reports on a win for the claimant in Habib v Radio 2UE Sydney Pty Ltd & Ors. He was awarded Aus$176,296, plus costs.

Next week in the courts

The new legal term begins tomorrow. We are not aware of any media law cases listed in the English courts this week but we will update this round up if any are drawn to our attention.

Next week at the Leveson Inquiry

Monday 11th June, 10:00 – 16:30, Gordon Brown MP, George Osborne MP

Tuesday 12th June, 10:00 – 16:30, Sir John Major, Ed Miliband MP, Harriet Harman QC MP

Wednesday 13th June, 10:00 – 16:30, Nick Clegg MP, Alex Salmond MSP

Thursday 14th June, 10:00 – 16:30, David Cameron MP

Next week in Parliament

Tuesday 12 June, 2.30pm, Defamation Bill – Second reading, Main Chamber, House of Commons.

The government has published its Defamation Bill [Bill no 5 of 2012-13] report (Research papers RP12/30) here [PDF] with a summary here.

Judgments

The following reserved judgments after public hearings remain outstanding:

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)

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

Subotic v Knezevic, heard 25 May 2012 (Tugendhat J)

Miller v Associated Newspapers heard 21 to 25 May 2012 (Sharp 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.


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13 06 2012
jtownend

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