We begin, once again, with phone hacking. At a hearing last week in the managed litigation before Mr Justice Vos it was disclosed that there are now 154 claims before the courts and that the Metropolitan Police have given disclosure of documents to a total of 620 potential claimants. Since the “second round” of the litigation began in February 2012 News Group Newspapers have settled 80 actual or threatened civil claims, and one claim in its “compensation scheme”.
At the hearing itself the Claimants told the court that they would not be pursuing their claims for exemplary damages – so as to avoid prejudicing the criminal proceedings. These were before Mr Justice Fulford at the Old Bailey on Tuesday 25 September 2012. It was announced that the likely date for the trial for conspiracy to intercept voicemail messages and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice was September 2013.
There is an interesting piece on the Brown Moses Blog about the relationship between former News of the World deputy editor Neil Wallis and former Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner John Yates, “John Yates And Neil Wallis – A Mutual Understanding“.
It was confirmed this week that Prince Harry would not be making any PCC complaint about the Sun’s publication of nude photographs of him. The PCC itself had previously confirmed that, despite having received 3,800 complaints from members of the public about the photograph it would not be appropriate for it to open an investigation without the formal involvement of Prince Harry’s representatives.
The case of the missing Sussex schoolgirl the teacher Jeremy Forrest produced widespread comment about the impact of the Education Act 2001. Section 13 of this Act introduces a provision into the Education 2002 which restricts reporting of allegations by pupils against teachers. It is not entirely clear whether the Act would have applied in the Forrest case. In any event, if the police had wished to identify him then they could have applied for an order from the Magistrates’ Court to permit this. This did not prevent widespread media condemnation of the provision. The Society of Editors complained that it was an “attack on freedom of speech” and described the new law as “ludicrous”.
The Sun published an article mentioning a claim by Lady Gaga’s former personal assistant (who is suing her former employer) that “Lady Gaga has ‘no right to privacy’” because “she is always exposing her body”.
The Ministry of Justice published is latest statistics on privacy injunctions – with the number of applications up from 4 in 5 months to 9 in 6 months. There was a report in the Press Gazette. We will have a detailed post about these statistics shortly.
Kelvin MacKenzie has instructed lawyers to write to South Yorkshire police seeking an apology for being misled by its officers in 1989. There are reports on the Greenslade blog and in the Press Gazette.
The governing body for cycling, the Union Cycliste Internationale, has brought a defamation action against cycling journalist Paul Kimmage. He complained to the Press Gazette. Cycling that the action is an attempt to silence his 22-year crusade to expose doping.
The Hacked Off website has a report of the Campaign’s activities at this year’s Liberal Democrat Conference by its director, Brian Cathcart.
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
We are not aware of anything to report in this section. Please contact us if any statements should be included and we will update the round up.
Journalism and regulation
The PCC published two adjudications against free weeklies in relation to complaints brought by former police officer Rebecca Morris over inaccurate stories (Rebecca Morris v Halesowen News; and Rebecca Morris v Stourbridge News. Roy Greenslade noted the two decisions.
Roy Greenslade also has a piece about the petition aimed at persuading The Sun’s editor to drop Page 3 noting that it has been getting plenty of publicity and support from several high profile celebrities. The petition has now achieved more than 40,000 signatures – it has a Twitter account @NoMorePage3.
In the Courts
There was a three day hearing of the tenth Case Management Conference in the Phone Hacking Litigation before Vos J on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, 25, 27 and 28 September 2012. The hearing continues on Monday 1 October 2012.
Please follow event links for details of tickets / admission.
3 October 2012, 6.30pm, James Cameron Memorial Award and Lecture 2012: N Ram, former Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu and Group publications. City University London.
6-7 October: Launch of the latest issue of Index on Censorship, ‘Censors on Campus’, at Rethinking Small Media conference, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London.
18 October, 10.30am, The Communications Data Bill: ‘Snoopers’ charter’, or safeguarding our security? Index on Censorship and the Global Network Initiative. Free Word Centre, London.
24 October 2012, 6pm, Ten Years On – The Iraq Dossiers: Who Was Damaged Most by Hutton?, Media Society debate with Kevin Marsh, former editor ‘Today’; Peter Oborne, Lance Price, Professor Steven Barnett, Professor Jean Seaton (Chair: Steve Hewlett). University of Westminster, London.
25 October 2012, After Leveson: Annual Conference of the Institute of Communication Ethics (from 9.30am); Media Society debate (3.30pm); launch of The Phone Hacking Scandal: Journalism on Trial (Abramis),second edition. Frontline Club, London.
19 November 2012, The Poetry of Free Expression: Celebrating 40 years of Index on Censorship, Index on Censorship / Poet in the City. King’s Place, London.
28 November 2012, 6pm ‘CEL Annual Lecture 2012: Media Freedoms & Media Standards’, Baroness Onora O’Neill
Know of any media law events happening in the autumn? Please let Inforrm know: email@example.com.
Research and Resources
We draw attention to a PhD thesis by J.V.J. van Hoboken “Search engine freedom: on the implications of the right to freedom of expression for the legal governance of Web search engines” – written in English at the University of Amsterdam.
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
The Defamation Watch blog has a post on the decision in Cornes v The Ten Group Pty in which the South Australia Court of Appeal dismissed the defendant’s appeal against a damages award of Aus$85,000 in a case in which it was argued that the words complained of were a joke.
Facebook is reported as having refused a police request to take down a page with prejudicial comments about the man accused of murder.
In Canada, the Supreme Court ruled that a teenager who had been bullied on Facebook could bring defamation proceedings anonymously. We had a post about the case.
In the case of Mainstream Canada v Staniford, the Supreme Court of British Columbia dismissed a claim by the salmon-farming company Mainstream Canada against Don Staniford over a 2011 campaign that included images of cigarette-like packages and statements such as “Salmon Farming Kills Like Smoking.” Adair J said while the statements were defamatory and Staniford was motivated by malice, the activist honestly believed in what he was saying and animosity wasn’t his dominant purpose. There is a report of the decision on CBC.
On 26 September 2012 the Court of Final Appeal handed down judgment in the case of Oriental Daily v Ming Pao Holdings ( HKCFA 59). The case concerned the appropriate level of damages for defamatory statements with little or no credibility. The appeal against the Court of Appeal’s reduced damages award was dismissed. Lord Neuberger was a member of the court and gave a short judgment doubting that the single meaning rule should not be applied to the question as to whether the defamatory statement would be believed.
The Daily Telegraph reports that the Italian Supreme Court has upheld the conviction and 14 month sentence of a newspaper editor for defaming a judge. The case arose out of an article in Il Giornale calling for a death sentence for a judge who had granted a 13 year old girl the right to an abortion.
It is reported that a defamation case against Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull has been settled out of court, with the city’s ratepayers paying NZ $29,000 towards legal costs of two former board members of the Otago Rugby Football Union.
Roy Greenslade draws attention on his blog to a new “cybercrime” law introduced in the Philippines which increased punishments for criminal libel and provides what Human Rights Watch describes as excessive powers to shut down websites and monitor online traffic.
It is reported that Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi is appealing against the dismissal of his libel action against the newspaper, Business Day. We reported in last week’s round up on the first instance decision – Buthelezi v BDFM Publishers (Pty) Ltd and Others  ZAGPJHC 164,
Next week in the courts
The Michaelmas Legal Term begins on Monday 1 October 2012.
The fourth day of the tenth Case Management Conference in the Phone Hacking litigation before Vos J. will take place on Monday 1 October 2012.
Next week in Parliament
From Wednesday 19 September, the House of Commons will be in recess. The House will next sit on Monday 15 October 2012.
The House of Lords is in recess. The House will next sit on Monday 8 October 2012.
The following reserved judgments after public hearings remain outstanding:
Miller v Associated Newspapers heard 21 to 25 May 2012 (Sharp J)
Qadir v Associated Newspapers heard 26 and 27 July 2012 (Tugendhat J)
KC v MGN; Cairns v Modi, heard 26 and 27 July 2012 (Lord Chief Justice, Master of the Rolls, Eady J).