This the first round up of the new legal term for what is likely to be a busy autumn. The first major developments are likely to concern the Leveson process – with the new President of the Queen’s Bench Division giving evidence to the Culture Media and Sport Committee the week after next. We like to keep readers up to date will all developments in the legal and media field. Please let us know about any judgments, forthcoming cases or events. We can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The libel case brought by Gerry and Kate McCann in the Portuguese Courts is due to be heard on 2 October 2013. The claim relates to a book by former police chief Goncalo Amaral. The case was adjourned on 27 September due to the unavailability of the defendant’s lawyer.
The Government is consulting on its proposals for costs protection in defamation and privacy claims. The Consultation closes on 8 November 2013. A number of newspapers have claimed that these proposals will have a “chilling effect” on investigations (for example, the Guardian, the Independent and the Daily Telegraph). However, as the Law Society Gazette points out the proposals
“may be better news for defendants than claimants – particularly where an impecunious claimant sues a big publisher. Defendants will no longer be on the hook for claimant lawyers’ success fees, or those whopping ATE premiums”.
The French data protection body the Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertes (CNIL) has announced that Google has contested an order to comply with French data protection laws within 3 months. The Chair of the CNIL will designate a rapporteur for the purpose of initiating a formal procedure for imposing sanctions, according to the provisions laid down in the French data protection law.
The BBC reports that the Wales Audit Office has ruled that Carmarthenshire Council was wrong to provide an indemnity to Chief Executive Mark James in his libel action against blogger Jaqui Thompson. Mr James was successful in his libel action and successfully defending Mrs Thompson’s claim before Tugendhat J in March 2013 (2013] EWHC 515 (QB)). Mrs Thompson’s application for permission to appeal is pending before the Court of Appeal.
Finally, is has been reported that the campaigning group Hacked Off is “certain” that the Privy Council will reject the PressBoF Royal Charter at its next meeting on 9 October 2013 and that the Cross Party Royal Charter will be adopted.
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
There was a statement in open court in Northern Ireland in the case of Ryanair v Associated Newspapers on 12 September 2013 in relation to statements made in a Channel 4 Dispatches programme which remains to subject to ongoing litigation. There is a BBC news report of the statement.
Journalism and regulation
John Witherow and Martin Ivens have been confirmed, after an eight-month wait, as editors respectively of The Times and Sunday Times. The Times independent national directors have formally confirmed the appointments. Roy Greenslade has a blog post on the appointments.
There have been two adjudications by the Press Complaints Commission since our last round up:
- A woman v Sunday Times. 23.9.13. The complainant was the sister of a man convicted of a high profile murder. The PCC had circulated private advisory notices on two occasions explaining that the family, including the complainant, would not be speaking to the press. However, the newspaper sent a reporter to her home requesting her comment, causing her significant distress. A complaint of harassment in breach of clause 4 of the Editors Code was upheld.
- A woman v Hemel Hempstead Gazette, 10.9.13. The complainant complained about an article about her conviction which she said identified her son and complained of a breach of clauses 3 and 6. The complaint was not upheld.
There have been a large number of resolved cases. A full list can be found on the PCC website. We draw attention to one – a complaint by former European Court of Human Rights President Sir Nicholas Bratza concerning a column in the Daily Telegraph by Christopher Booker. The Daily Telegraph agreed to publish an apology in the following terms
“Sir Nicolas Bratza
My May 25 article on same-sex marriage referred to a speech made by Sir Nicolas Bratza, then President of the European Court of Human Rights, at a “secret” conference in the Council of Europe in 2012, chaired by the British Government. I said that “with the public excluded for the first time in the Council’s history, it was here that – with the active support of Sir Nicolas Bratza… a deadline was set for [a] planned coup of June 2013” for the introduction of same-sex marriage. I stated that Sir Nicolas “pledged that his court would declare same-sex marriage to be a European-wide human right” if, by that date, “several countries” had managed to put gay marriage into law.
In fact, this event was not “secret”, though it was for an invited audience only, with the press and public excluded – a common format for conferences in the Council of Europe. I also accept that, while supporting the general aims of the conference, Sir Nicolas did not give active support to the setting of a deadline for a coup to introduce same-sex marriage. In particular, I accept that he made no pledge purporting to commit the Court, which would have been improper. I am happy therefore to withdraw these statements, with my apologies.”
Research & resources
- Blackstone’s Guide to the Defamation Act 2013, edited by James Price QC and Felicity McMahon (see our post).
- Privacy and Media Freedom, by Raymond Wacks (see his post on “Privacy: asking the wrong question”). The Times Higher Education Supplement has a review of the book by Arne Hintz.
- Charles Russell, Update on Defamation Act: Website Operators [pdf]
- “Splendid Isolation? Australia as a Destination for ‘Libel Tourism’” by David Rolph, SSRN, Abstract.
- “Freedom of Speech, Defamation and Injunctions” by David S Ardia, SSRN Abstract.
- “Dissemination of Libel by Online Social Platforms: Reinterpreting Laws to Meet the Information Age”, by Adrian Fong, SSRN Abstract.
In the Courts
Judgment in the case of Carr v Penman  EWHC 2679 (QB) was handed down by Dingemans J on 2 September 2013 (after a hearing on 31 July 2013). He set aside an order for the service of libel proceedings out of the jurisidiction (in Australia)
18 October 2013 2013, NCTJ Defamation Act seminar by Mike Dodd, 1.30 – 4.30pm at Bloomberg, City Gate House, 39-45 Finsbury Square, London.
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 later this summer or in the autumn? Please let Inforrm know: email@example.com.
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
Benin: A Benin High Court has awarded Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, N25million (£31,000) as damages in a libel suit the governor instituted against Docklands Communication and one Loye Amzat, publishers and editor of the News of the People Magazine. The case concerned a report with the headline, ‘Oshiomhole’s sex power exposed: Impregnates young girl six months after death of wife.” The judge said that even though the public has a right to know about a public officer, such information should be in line with the law and must not be in bad faith.
Canada: York University in Toronto is bringing a libel action against Toronto Life over an article about sexual assaults which the newspaper claims has made the university infamous for such assaults.
Isle of Man: A lawyer, Jason Stanley, has been awarded damages of £10,000 in a defamation action against businessman Michael Morris. The defamatory comments were published in letters and in his “Moorgate Promenade Newsletter”. Judgment was given by Deemster Roberts on 24 September 2013 (Stanley v Morris, Case Ref 2012/1551).
Israel: The Jerusalem District Court has dismissed a libel action brought by the right wing organization Im Tirtzu against five left-wing activists who described it a fascist movement in a Facebook page. It is estaimted that Im Tirtzu has brought some 20 libel actions against left wing activists.
Kenya: Football Federation Kenya has instituted defamation proceedings against a local newspaper and a suspended official over allegations that it is under investigation in over Sh34.8 million (£250,000) which is said to be “missing” from its accounts.
Liberia: Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Global Witness have written to the President of Liberia urging reform of libel law and procedure to prevent excessive judgments and restrictions on appeals from underming free speech rights. There is a report on the Human Rights Watch website.
Taiwan: The Formosa Plastics Group has lost its libel claim against environmental engineer Bert-Jei Tsuang who had presented evidence of an increased risk of cancer in the vicinity of a hydrocarbon processing facility. The Taipei District Court said that the statements were “fair comments on fact subject to public criticism”
Next week in the courts
On Monday 30 September 2013, HHJ Moloney will hear an application in the case of Kim v Park.
On 1 October 2013 there is an application in in the case of Subotic v Knezevic
On 4 October 2013 there is an application in Bewry v Reed Elsevier (UK) Ltd
Next week in Parliament
The House of Commons and the House of Lords are in recess and will next sit on Tuesday 8 October 2013.
The following reserved judgments after public hearings remain outstanding:
Hodgins v Squire Sanders (UK) LLP, 28 June 2013 (Sharp J)
Shathri v Guardian News and Media, 4 July 2013 (Nicola Davies J).
Karpov v Browder & ors, 24-25 July 2013 (Simon J)