There are two key developments in Parliament to report this week: the House of Commons rejected proposals to stop corporations suing for defamation unless they can show serious financial loss. After a short debate the House approved a Government motion to disagree with Amendment No.2 by 298 votes to 230. Justice Minister Helen Grant said the government was “prepared to consider actively that aspect of the Lords amendment further, and we will listen carefully to the views expressed in both Houses”.
As reported by Inforrm here, the Commons agreed to remove the House of Lords “Puttnam amendments” without a vote and approved the remaining Amendments, 3 to 14. The Bill will now return to the House of Lords under the “ping pong” procedure. The Libel Reform campaign responded to the removal of Amendment 2 here, urging that Ministers in the House of Lords should table an early amendment, requiring corporations to show financial loss. The Labour Party has since tabled a new amendment to the Bill, which will be debated in the House of Lords on Tuesday.
Secondly, amendments to the Crime and Courts Bill clarifying the definition of a “relevant publisher” have received cross-party agreement, as DCMS announces here. The amendments further define publishers’ exemption from the self-regulation scheme and the associated costs and exemplary damages incentives. Publishers classed as ‘micro-businesses’, that is businesses with fewer than 10 employees and an annual turnover below £2 million, will be exempt. The amendments also allow publishers which do not fall under the definition of relevant publisher to join a regulator and “receive the legal benefits otherwise only available to relevant publishers in the regulator“. A post on Lib Dem Voice summarises some of the discussion here.
The Civil Justice Council (“CJC”) Working Group on Defamation costs published its Final Report [doc] on the options for costs protection in defamation and privacy proceedings. It makes a number of recommendations on the options for controlling costs, including ‘Variable Costs Protection’ similar to the Qualified One Way Costs system, as summarised here on Inforrm, and here by 5RB.
Sun executive editor Fergus Shanahan has been charged with an offence of conspiring to commit misconduct in public office. It is alleged that he authorised two payments to a public official in August 2006 and August 2007, according to the CPS – its statement can be found here. The Independent reports here.
According to a report in Press Gazette, former Conservative council candidate Payam Tamiz has served a claim on Guardian News & Media for defamation.
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
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Journalism and regulation
The BBC went ahead and aired its Panorama programme on North Korea last week, despite concerns raised by the London School of Economics about the nature of its journalists’ trip, involving ten students at the university. Three BBC journalists accompanied 10 LSE students and spent eight days in North Korea.
James Harding, former editor of the Times, has been appointed at head of news at the BBC, to replace Helen Boaden. He will start his new role in August.
The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and the World Editors Forum have written to David Cameron, arguing that the proposed Royal Charter on self-regulation of the press “risks having a devastating effect on the independent press, not only in the United Kingdom but also worldwide“. The full letter can be read here.
There were no adjudications but several resolved cases reported by the PCC: Miss Emma Dixon v Daily Mail, Clauses 1, 5, 19/04/2013; Ms Savitri Hensman v Daily Mail, Clause 1, 19/04/2013; Ms Debra Mackrell v Daily Mail, Clause 1, 19/04/2013; Mrs Melanie Taylor v Daily Mirror, Clause 1, 19/04/2013; The parents of a child v The Scottish Sun, Clause 3, 19/04/2013; Mr Clive Bates v The Mail on Sunday, Clause 1, 19/04/2013; Scottish Refugee Council v Daily Mail, Clause 1, 15/04/2013.
Commentary, research & resources
- Professor Richard Moorhead: Good law, and the Peoples’ Halsbury
- Simon Israel, Channel 4 News: Rolf Harris and a trial by media
- Media Reform Coalition: DCMS stakeholder meeting report / Results of Consultation on Crime and Courts Bill
- Foundation for Law, Justice and Society: ‘Media Law After Leveson’ debate report
- David Allen Green, New Statesman: ‘Should companies be able to sue for libel‘?
In the Courts
On Monday 15 April 2013 there was a pre-trial review before Simon J in the libel case of Hunt v Times Newspapers. This is due to be tried on 29 April 2013, with a time estimate of three weeks before Simon J.
On Tuesday 16 April 2013 there was a meaning application in the case of McAlpine v Bercow, before Tugendhat J. The judge announced his decision, but reserved judgment. He directed that there should be a preliminary hearing on the actual meaning of the words complained of: both a natural and ordinary meaning and an innuendo meaning. There was a news report, for example, in the Daily Telegraph.
On Thursday 18 April 2013, Nicol J heard part of the Pre Trial Review in Cruddas v Calvert & ors. Judgment was reserved.
On Friday 19 April 2013 there was a further case management conference in the phone hacking litigation (the 15th), before Vos J. As the BBC reported here, the court heard that 149 of 167 actions originally on the register had now been settled, with eight further claims seeking to be added. Among the newly announced settlements were claims brought by Neil and Christine Hamilton, John Leslie and the estate of Jade Goody. The Guardian also reports here.
22 April 2013, IBC Legal’s 20th Anniversary Defamation & Privacy conference, Grange Tower Bridge Hill, London.
25 April 2013, 6.30pm, ‘What’s Wrong with Copyright?’, Marks launch of the Right to Share Principles, Freedom of Expression and Copyright in the Digital Age. Speakers include Maria Aretoulaki (Pirate Party UK), Phiillipe Aigrain (La Quadrature du Net) and Gabrielle Guillemin (Article 19). Free Word Centre, 60 Farringdon Road, London.
1 May 2013, The Fifth Northumbria Information Rights Conference: Changing Notions of Privacy, Northern Design Centre, Gateshead, Tyne and Wear.
2 May 2013, Reporting Mental Health and Suicide by the Media, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.
9 May 2013, Valuing the BBC: A half day seminar, City University London.
9 May 2013, The Theft of Creative Content: Copyright in Crisis – Department of Law and PRS for Music public debate, LSE, London.
16-17 May 2013, Legal frontiers in digital media: the sixth annual conference on emerging legal issues surrounding digital publishing and content distribution, Stanford University, Paul Brest Hall, Stanford, California.
23-24 May 2013, “Social Media, Regulation and Freedom of Expression: A comparative perspective”. A workshop organized by HKBU and Tsinghua University, Communication & Visual Arts Building, Hong Kong Baptist University. Hong Kong.
31 May 2013, Rethinking Media and Journalism Practice, University of Winchester
10 June 2013, Caught in the web: how free are we online?, Kings Place, London.
24-25 June 2013, The Constitution of the Public Sphere: the post-Leveson Landscape (W G Hart Legal Workshop 2013), Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, London.
26-27 September 2013, Jersey Law Via the Internet 2013, Radisson Blu Hotel, Jersey.
Know of any media law events happening in the next few months? Please let Inforrm know: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
Australia: On 5 April 2013, judgment was given in Sands v State of South Australia ( SASC 44). Derick John Sands, a photographer, lost his claim for defamation, as well as other claims including a breach of confidence and a breach of his right to privacy. Inforrm published a case report by Justin Castelan here.
Mauritius: Geoffrey Robertson QC has published a preliminary report to the Mauritius Government on “Media Law and Ethics in Mauritius” [pdf], which recommends abolishing various criminal sanctions on journalists and introducing a new system of media regulation.
New Zealand: On 19 March 2013, Courtney J delivered judgment in the case of Wishart v Murray  NZHC 540 refusing to strike out a libel action in a claim relating to Tweets and posting on Facebook. The judge found prima facie liability for third party comments posted on a Facebook page moderated by the defendant. There is a post about the case here by Ursula Cheer.
Next week in the courts
On 22 April 2013, Tugendhat J will hear an application in the case of Ontulmus & ors v Collett.
On the same day HHJ Moloney QC will hear an application and the first day of the trial in Kim v Park.
On 25 April 2013, there will be a Pre Trial Review in the case of Small v Turner. A 7 day trial is due to begin on 7 May 2013.
Next week in Parliament
Monday 22 April 2013, 2.30pm, Legislation – Crime and Courts Bill [HL] – Consideration of Lords amendments, Main Chamber, HoC.
Monday 22 April, 2.30pm, Legislation – Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill – Consideration of Commons amendments – Viscount Younger of Leckie, Main Chamber, HoL.
Tuesday 23 April 2013, 2.30pm, Legislation – Defamation Bill – Consideration of Commons amendments – Lord McNally; Legislation – Crime and Courts Bill [HL] – Consideration of Commons amendments – Lord Taylor of Holbeach, Main Chamber, HoL.
Wednesday 24 April 2013, 4.30pm – 5pm, Role of the BBC Trust in oversight of the BBC – Mr Rob Wilson, Westminster Hall, HoC.
The following reserved judgments after public hearings remain outstanding:
McAlpine v Bercow, heard 16 April 2013 (Tugendhat J)
Cruddas v Calvert & ors, heard 18 April 2013 (Nicol J)
Also on Inforrm last week
- Social media: who cares? – Matt Himsworth
- News: Defamation Bill, Commons reject amendment to limit ability of corporations to sue
- Leveson: Forget How We Got Here? Newspaper Coverage of the Royal Charter Deal – Sally Broughton Micova
- Leveson’s regulator and the goal of protecting ‘real harm caused to real people’: A likely story? – Paul Wragg
- News: Civil Justice Council Working Group Report on Defamation Costs
- Outrageous Opinion on Social Media: The Correct Role of the Law – Oliver O’Callaghan
- Case Law, Australia: Sands v South Australia, No tort for breach of privacy – Justin Castelan
- Free speech … what’s the point? – Paul Bernal
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 email@example.com.