Media and Law Review of the Year, 2012: Part 2, May to August – Judith Townend

2 01 2013

Leveson 2012This is the second part of Judith Townend’s review of the media and legal news for 2012.  Part 1, covering January to April was published on 31 December 2012.  The final part will be published tomorrow.

May 2012

The Parliamentary Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport released its report on News International and Phone Hacking.

David Cameron, Nick Clegg, George Osborne, Jeremy Hunt, Kenneth Clarke, Theresa May, Michael Gove, and Vince Cable were announced as “Government Core Participants” of the Leveson Inquiry, as Module Three got underway, examining the relationship between press and politicians.

It was established in the High Court that a newspaper is not defined by what material it was printed on, “nor by shape or size” but it does have to contain news.

In SKA and PLM v CRH [2012] EWHC 766 (QB) Tugendhat J refused to grant an injunction prohibiting the disclosure of the fact that the claimants were engaged in an extra-marital relationship, and the paternity of the claimants’ unborn twins.

In the case of R (on the application of Calver) v The Adjudication Panel for Wales ([2012] EWHC 1172 (Admin)) the Administrative Court held that the decision to censure a Welsh councillor for comments on his blog was a disproportionate interference with his right to freedom of expression.

The Queen’s speech, as widely predicted, contained three areas of relevance to media law, the Crime and Courts Bill, the Defamation Bill and the Justice and Security Bill. The Defamation bill had its formal first reading on 10 May 2012.

Orders made to produce footage of the evictions at the Dale Farm were quashed following Judicial Review (R (on the application of BSkyB v Chelmsford Crown Court [2012] EWHC 1295 (Admin)).

Former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks and a number of others were charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

An action for libel based on a cartoon depicting two politicians was dismissed on 10 May 2012 by the Royal Court of Jersey (Pitman v Jersey Evening Post [2012] JRC 92).

Chris Huhne MP’s partner Carina Trimingham lost her privacy claim against Associated Newspapers, with Tugendhat J refusing permission to appeal ([2012] EWHC1296 (QB)).

The Belfast High Court ruled that a contempt of court case taken against former NI Secretary Peter Hain would not proceed.

The Metropolitan Police made its 30th arrest as part of Operation Elveden.

The Crown Prosecution Service announced that there would be no charges in relation to an allegation that an Operation Weeting police officer leaked confidential information to Guardian journalist Amelia Hill.

The “Twitter joke” case, Chambers v DPP (heard 8 February 2012) resulted in an evenly divided court. It was ordered to be re-tried before a three judge court.

Wiseman v Sullivan – a trial without jury – settled on 30 May 2012 and the defendant, Colin Sullivan, agreed to pay damages of £50,000 to solicitor Stewart Wiseman. The defendant had covered the Claimant’s car with defamatory posters and placards and parked it outside his house and workplace.

Two years and three months after launch the Inforrm blog reached one million hits.

QOTM: “Rupert Murdoch is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company”, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee report on phone hacking.

June 2012

The boyfriend of a woman whose body was found in a lake six years ago won £125,000 libel damages over a police claim that he probably killed her, in Bento v Chief Constable of Bedfordshire Police [2012] EWHC 1525.

There was, finally, a libel jury trial – the first for nearly three years: Luke Cooper v Evening Standard Limited and Associated Newspapers Ltd. After a five day trial a High Court jury unanimously found in favour of graduate student and part time university tutor Luke Cooper and awarded damages of £35,000 against the Evening Standard and £25,000 against the Daily Mail.

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.

Nicola Brookes, 45, from Brighton, 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.

A case management conference set the framework for the second round of phone hacking claims. The First Tranche of phone hacking claims against NGN concluded in February 2012; there were 50 new claims on against NGN in the Second Tranche.

The Leveson Inquiry (Module Three) heard from former prime minister Tony Blair and several Cabinet ministers, on contact with the press, regulation and the BSkyB takeover bid. Following a short break, the Inquiry heard from David Cameron, deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, former prime ministers Gordon Brown and Sir John Major and opposition leader Ed Miliband.

In a harassment by publication case, the Leeds United Chairman, Ken Bates, was ordered to pay damages of £10,000 to a Yorkshire businessman, Melvyn Levi.

The Defamation Bill 2012 received renewed attention ahead of its second reading in the House of Commons, particularly over Clause 5 which concerns a defence for operators of websites.

The Crown Prosecution Service announced that Guardian journalist David Leigh would not face prosecution after he admitted listening to the voicemails of an arms company executive in a 2006 article in the Guardian.

Mark Lewis, a partner at Taylor Hampton, settled his libel claim against the Metropolitan Police, which concerned comments about evidence he gave on phone hacking to the culture, media and sport select committee in 2009. The police did not accept liability but agreed to pay Lewis £30,000 in damages and his £176,000 legal costs.

In the cases of Kurier Zeitungsverlag und Druckerei GmbH (No. 2) v. Austria (Application no. 1593/06) and Krone Verlag GmbH v. Austria (no. 27306/07), the First Section of the European Court of Human Rights In Chamber judgments held that there had been no violation of Article 10 in two cases in which newspapers had revealed the identity of a child and published photographs from which he could be recognised.

It was announced that The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) was currently considering further files involving four journalists relating to Operation Weeting, for charging decisions. There had now been 18 files handed to prosecutors.

The ECtHR ruled that the UK Government must pay Mirror Group Newspapers more than £200,000 in damages (MGN Limited v The United KingdomApplication no. 39401/04 – Just Satisfaction) over MGN’s payment in costs and success fees in Naomi Campbell’s CFA for two House of Lords appeal hearings. The court dismissed the remainder of the applicant’s claim for just satisfaction.

In Canada, Conrad Black filed a $1.25-million lawsuit for defamation against Random House of Canada and author Bruce Livesey over the book Thieves of Bay Street.

The case of McLaughlin v London Borough of Lambeth was settled just before the commencement of a 20 day trial by Eady J. A statement in open court was agreed, with the remainder of the terms remaining confidential.

The Sunday Times apologised to former Labour MP and defence minister Adam Ingram and agreed to pay damages over claims he made corrupt payments to Colonel Gaddafi’s son in Ingram v Times Newspapers.

QOTM: “[T]he great democratic power of the jury system does not lie in the illusory idea that ordinary people somehow share a moral code with the millionaire owners of the tabloid media. It is predicated on the intelligence of working people; to bring a variety of talents, insights and experiences into the court room so as to reach a fair judgement on our fellow citizens”, Luke Cooper, claimant in Cooper v Evening Standard Limited and Associated Newspapers Ltd.

July 2012

In Phillips v Mulcaire (Rev 1) ([2012] UKSC 28), the Supreme Court unanimously dismissed the appeal of Mr Glenn Mulcaire against orders that he answer questions relating to his “phone hacking” activities in the context of the Voicemail Interception Litigation.

July saw the end of Module three of the Leveson Inquiry, examining the press and politicians, with more evidence from MPs and journalists. Module 4, looking at models of future regulation, opened with evidence from Lords Black and Hunt, setting out their proposal for regulation without statutory intervention.

The end of the month saw the final day of Part One, following 26 weeks of evidence.

The leader of the RMT Union, Bob Crow, failed in a libel claim against London Mayor Boris Johnson relating to leaflets issued during the 2012 London Mayoral campaign.

Ken Livingstone’s publishers, Faber & Faber, formally apologised to the journalist Andrew Gilligan in a Statement in Open Court read on 18 July 2012.

Articles on Levi Bellfield published in the Daily Mirror and the Daily Mail were held to be in contempt of court.

The Crown Prosecution Service announced that it had decided to charge former News of the World editors Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks, and six others with offences relating to alleging phone hacking between 2002 and 2006.

The Home Affairs Select Committee published its Report on “Private Investigators”. It recommends the establishment of “a robust licensing and registration system” with a Code of Conduct.

Sharp J gave the long awaited judgment in El-Naschie v Macmillan, ([2012] EWHC1809 (QB)). The defendants were wholly successful and the claim was dismissed with costs.

A privacy claim brought by singer and X-factor judge Tulisa Contostavlos against her former boyfriend, Justin Edwards was settled with a statement in open court.

A small child whose father is alleged to be a philandering politician won £15,000 privacy damages at the High Court.

The appeal in the “Twitter joke” case (Chambers v DPP) was allowed ([2012] EWHC 2157 (QB)).

A hearing before Mr Justice Vos on 18 July 2012 set a “cut off” date for inclusion in the ‘Tranche 2’ voicemail interception litigation – 14 September 2012.

In a judgment handed down on Monday 30 July 2012 (JIH v NGN and other cases [2012] EWHC 2179 (QB)) Mr Justice Tugendhat noted that seven privacy injunctions granted against News Group Newspapers in 2010 and 2011 had been discharged by consent. In each case, the anonymity of the claimant was retained.

The European Court of Human Rights held that the display of a flag with ‘controversial historical connotations’ was protected under Article 10.

QOTM:The first reason why part 2 must continue is to do the work that is necessary to complete part 1 … The other is that what we’ve seen so far, as DAC Akers speculated, is only the tip of the iceberg”, David Sherborne, counsel to the victims, Leveson Inquiry.

August 2012

A short consultation on the draft Communications Data Bill [pdf] – the ‘Snoopers’ Charter’ – ended.

The High Court in Belfast ordered Facebook to identify anonymous account holders anonymous posters responsible for abusive messages about a Belfast company and three of its employees.

The Senior Presiding Judge sent new guidance [pdf] to judges banning them from blogging in their judicial capacity.

Prince Harry’s bum caused the first of the summer’s big Royal Privacy stories, with the Sun taking the decision to publish the photographs in question.

It was revealed that Elton John was suing the Times for libel over a story about his alleged connection to a tax avoidance scheme.

It was announced that Northcliffe Media would no longer pursue Twitter, for details of the individual tweeting as @UnSteveDorkland, a parody account of the company’s chief executive Steve Auckland.

The Law Commission opened a consultation into “whether the current offence of scandalising the court should be abolished or, in the alternative, whether it should be retained but modified and, if so, how”. It is part of the Commission’s wider project on Contempt.

The Sunday Express apologised and paid damages to the King Fahad Academy in Acton, West London, after wrongly claiming that the school taught an extreme form of Islam.

Andrew Wakefield, who was struck off the medical register for professional conduct over allegations that the MMR vaccine was linked to autism, failed in his attempt to sue the British Medical Journal (BMJ) for defamation in Texas.

QOTM: The Prince Harry pictures are a crucial test of Britain’s free Press. It is absurd that in the internet age newspapers like The Sun could be stopped from publishing stories and pictures already seen by millions on the free-for-all that is the web. It was vital for us to run them,” The Sun, on its decision to publish those pictures.

Comment below, or tweet @jtownend / @inforrm.

Follow our weekly round ups here.

This review was compiled for Inforrm by Judith Townend, a freelance journalist and PhD researcher examining legal restraints on the media.


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