The Court of Appeal, Criminal Division, dismissed appeals by five former News of the World employees against a preliminary ruling that interception of read voicemails constitutes an offence under RIPA. The appellants’ anonymity was removed and the appeal route to the Supreme Court was closed off. All five now face trial on 9 September 2013. We had a post about the decision and there was one on the Zelo Street blog.
Lord Justice Leveson continues to be the subject of continued press attacks. This week these were based on the claim that he had failed to investigate claims that lawyers and insurance companies were involved in phone hacking. We had a post on this – pointing out that the actions of lawyers and insurance companies were not within his remit. In fact, the evidence that lawyers commissioned phone hacking (as opposed to the blagging of private information) seems to be non-existent. It is certainly not suggested in the SOCA report [pdf] which lies behind this story. Jon Slattery has some entertaining quotes on this subject under the headline “Independent exposes ‘the other hacking scandal,’ does it kill Leveson?” And another line of attack on the Leveson Inquiry was opened yesterday, concerning a story that evidence to the Inquiry by a former police investigator, Peter Tickner had been blocked following an application by the Metropolitan Police.
Meanwhile, there was some press comment on the question as to whether Lord Justice Leveson was going to give evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee. On Tuesday 25 June 2013, the Guardian reported that (as was indeed the case) that the Committee intended to write a letter to the judge inviting him to give evidence. In the hands of the Sun this became a “strong worded letter” which had already been sent, “ordering” him to appear. The Daily Mail also referred to the judge being “summoned”. Roy Greenslade discussed this curious divergence in language in a piece in entitled “Verbal tricks as papers report on Leveson’s select committee ‘invitation’”. The Sun looked forward to a “Major constitution [sic] crisis if he snubs them”. Unfortunately, this was not to be as, on Thursday 27 June 2013 it was reported that Lord Justice Leveson had accepted the invitation and agreed to appear before the Committee.
The cross party Leveson Royal Charter has still not been sealed. Hacked Off asked “Why are we waiting?” It is now clear that the next scheduled Privy Council meeting is on 10 July 2013. As a result, as the Press Gazette reports, “the stand-off over the future of press regulation could come to a head next week as the agenda is drawn up” for that meeting. The Mail on Sunday commented that the Press BoF charter is the “ideal answer”: the argument is that as the ‘cross-party’ Charter “has little chance of gaining wide support in the industry“, politicians should retreat and accept the press’ own version.
The Evening Standard made an operating profit of £82,000 in the 12 months up to September 2012 but its sister company, Independent Print Limited – publisher of the Independent, the Independent on Sunday and the i – made an operating loss of £17.5 million. The Greenslade blog discussed these results.
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
The publishers of the Daily Mail have agreed to pay damages of £110,000 to Britam Defence, a risk management consultancy. A Statement in Open Court was read on 26 June 2013. There was an Inforrm post about the case.
Journalism and regulation
The PCC has published its 2012 complaints statistics. The headline points are as follows:
- The PCC received 12,191 complaints last year. (This figures includes a large number of complaints that could not be taken forward and numerous cases in which the PCC issued only one ruling about a matter that was raised by a number of complainants).
- The PCC issued rulings, or brokered agreed resolutions, in 1937 cases.
- The PCC successfully mediated (resolved to the complainant’s satisfaction) 535 cases in 2012.
- In 101 complaints, the Commission ruled that the Editors’ Code had been breached and that the publication had offered or taken sufficient action to remedy the breach under the terms of the Code, even though an agreed settlement between the complainant and the publication could not be reached.
- The PCC acted to assist members of the public with pre-publication concerns (about harassment, intrusion or inaccuracy) on 136 occasions.
There have been two new PCC adjudications this week.
- A woman v Sunday Mail – No breach of clauses 10 and 16 in respect of clandestine photographs of prisoners. The publication was justified by public interest. The Press Gazette had a report on this adjudication and we had a post from Adam Wagner about the adjudication and the apology.
- Jacqueline Minor, on behalf of the European Commission v Sun: Breach of clause 1 in relation to a sub-heading concerning a Court decision “”Now EU could let fiends like [Huntley] prey on your children”
There has also been one resolved complaint, George Sorial v Daily Telegraph (clause 1).
Commentary, research & resources
In the Courts
On 24 June 2013, Mrs Justice Sharp heard a strike out application in the case of Tamiz v Guardian News and Media.
On 25 June 2013, Birss J granted an interim injunction in the case of Volkswagen v Garcia and others, to restrain publication of certain parts of an academic paper about a weakness in an algorithm used in car immobilisers.
On 26 June 2013, Mr Justice Tugendhat gave judgment in Cruddas v Calvert (No.3) ( EWHC 1791 (QB)) rejecting a submission that he should recuse himself for the trial and ordering it to commence on 2 July 2013.
Until 9 July 2013, Co-operatives UK and Carnegie UK Trust events on ‘Make your local news work’, various locations, UK.
17 September 2013, IBC Legal’s Protecting the Media 2013, London.
26-27 September 2013, Jersey Law Via the Internet 2013, Radisson Blu Hotel, Jersey
8-9 April 2014, “1984: Freedom and Censorship in the Media – Where Are We Now?“, Centre for Research in Media and Cultural Studies at the University of Sunderland
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: It is reported that former chauffeur, Gordon Wood, who was acquitted of the murder of his girlfriend, Caroline Byrne, is suing a number of media outlets for defamation. In 2008 Mr Wood was found guilty of murdering his girlfriend in 1995 but his conviction was overturned on appeal.
In New South Wales, lawyers acting for sports scientist Stephen Dank and others are reported to have issued a statement saying that he was intending to take multiple proceedings for defamation and injurious falsehood against the media in various states. The claims were said to be for damages of Aus$10 million.
Canada: In Ontario, the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal of former Conservative cabinet minister Helen Geurgis against the striking out of her action for defamation, conspiracy and negligence against the Prime Minister, Stephen Harper (Guergis v. Novak, 2013 ONCA 449). There is a news report about the decision in the Star Phoenix.
Grenada: Legislators have passed an electronic crimes bill that makes it a crime to offend people through websites such as Facebook and Twitter. The same bill also imposes penalties on other online activities including electronic stalking and identity theft. There is an Associated Press report.
Italy: The freedom of speech NGO, Article 19, has written to the Italian Parliament calling for full decriminalization of defamation in Italy and for amnesties to be granted to all journalists convicted of defamation.
Sweden: Reuters reports that on 25 June 2013, two Swedish teenage girls were found guilty of defamation on Tuesday for posting sexual insults about other youngsters on the photo sharing website Instagram. The court convicted the girls, aged 15 and 16, for writing explicit, derogatory remarks next to pictures of 38 young people, mostly girls, via an anonymous account on Instagram
United States: It is reported that Matthew Knowles, the father of the singer Beyonce Knowles, is suing the Sun in the United States over an article stating that she had “cut him out of her life”.
Next week in the courts
The trial in the case of Lucas v Gledhill begins on Monday 1 July 2013 before Nicola Davies J.
On Tuesday 2 July 2013 the trial in the case of Cruddas v Calvert will commence before Tugendhat J. On 26 June 2013 the judge rejected an application to recuse himself and to put the trial off until later in the month. There was an Inforrm post about this decision.
The following reserved judgments after public hearings remain outstanding:
Hunt v Times Newspapers, heard 29 and 30 April, 1-3, 7-10, 13, 16 and 17 May 2013 (Simon J)