The phone hacking trial of Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson and six others continued at the Central Criminal Court. This week saw Days 11, 12, 13 and 14 of the trial – with no hearing on Friday 15 November 2013. The jury heard evidence about the alleged hacking of the phones of, among others, David Blunkett, Prince Harry and Charles Clarke.
For those who want a quick summary, the BBC has a useful piece dated 16 November 2013 entitled “Hacking Trial – the Story so Far” – with links to the coverage.
The Guardian (Nick Davies and Lisa O’Carroll), the Independent (James Cusick) and the BBC (Dominic Casciani) continue to provide full coverage. Some other papers have engaged in “light touch” coverage of the trial – the Sun having six stories over two and a half weeks (most describing their former editor Rebekah Brooks as a “former News international boss”. The David Banks Media Law Consultancy Blog is continuing to provide a daily round up of the press coverage as is the #pressreform blog.
Meanwhile, Sun journalist Nick Parker has pleaded not guilty to charges in connection with theft of Siobhain McDonagh’s mobile phone in October 2010.
In other news this week, the Society of Editors had its annual conference. Sir James Munby gave a talk entitled “Opening up the Family Courts: Transparency in the Family Court and the Court of Protection” [pdf]. A number of inaccurate and misleading expositions of the nature of IPSO and the Leveson recommendations were given. Pride of place for misunderstanding, distortion and inaccuracy went to Lord Grade’s keynote speech. In a piece on the Hacked Off blog, attention was drawn to 10 mistakes in the speech.
The founders of IPSO told the conference that it would have “near universal support” and that it would be up and running by early next year. Meanwhile, the Media Standards Trust published a report [pdf] which showed that IPSO only satisfies 12 of 38 Leveson recommendations. With the honourable exception of a piece on the Greenslade blog and one in the Press Gazette this report received no coverage whatever in the mainstream press or broadcast media.
Libel news. On 11 November 2013, in response to a point of order from John Whittingdale MP, the Speaker announced that written submissions had been made on his behalf to the Court of Appeal in the case of Makudi v Triesman. There were reports about this on the BBC website and in the Guardian.
Simon Jordan, the former Chairman of Crystal Palace, has sued Northern and Shell over a story in OK! over an article which he claims alleges that he callously ended a three-year relationship with Alicia Douvall immediately upon learning of her pregnancy,
There was a hearing in the case of Contostavlos v Mendahun & ors concerning the costs of the action. Dingemans J was told that the website TNT had agreed to pay £42,500 compensation. Cleland Thom has commented on how this payout shows the importance of checking your emails.
Finally, the Press Gazette reports that five Royal Marines have lodged a challenge against a ruling that they can be named following the conviction of one of them for murder.
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
We are not aware of any Statements in Open Court this week.
Journalism and regulation
The PCC has issued new Guidance on the “Reporting and researching stories involving transgender individuals” . It describes the Guidance as having several purposes:
- To highlight to editors common areas of concern for individuals of transgender status and their friends and family members;
- To draw together relevant rulings by the Commission;
- To explain how the Commission is able to assist transgender individuals who are experiencing harassment or are concerned about press coverage that has been or may be published; and
- To direct journalists and members of the public to further resources on these topics.
There were no adjudications by the Press Complaints Commission this week. We had a post about one of last week’s adjudications, Dr Nicholas Russell v Daily Mirror.
There were 10 resolved PCC complaints under Clause 1 as follows: Mr David Pollock v The Daily Telegraph; Mr Moore v Daily Mirror; Mr Peter Maddison v Mail on Sunday; Dee Vyas v Metro; Ms Zoe Harcombe v The Daily Telegraph; Ms Zoe Harcombe v Daily Mirror; Paul Caruana v The Daily Telegraph; Mr Chris Winnan v The Guardian; Mr Elliot Reed and Mr Jim Allen v The Sun. There was also one resolved complaint under Clauses 1, 3 and 5, Ms Mojgan Khayatian v The Sun.
The Daily Mail has finally corrected its front page story that the Court of Human Rights had “handed the criminals taxpayer-funded payouts of £4.4million – an average of £22,000 a head.” The Daily Mail accepted both of the criticisms. Its correction reads:
An article on 8 October said that the UK has paid £4.4 million in compensation to criminals under rulings by the European Court of Human Rights. In fact, the money went to a range of claimants and only £1.7 million was compensation; legal costs accounted for the rest.
We had a post about the correction from Adam Wagner. He held back from mentioning two further objectionable features of this correction. First, the remarkable reference to the fact that the money “went to a range of claimants” – it appears that the Mail cannot bring itself to say that many of the claimants were not criminals. Second, as usual, the size of the correction was many times smaller than the original false and inaccurate front page splash.
In the Courts
Our attention has been drawn to the fact that there was a Statement in Open Court in the case of Shathri v Guardian News and Media on 18 October 2013 – so that there is no judgment now outstanding.
On Tuesday 12 November 2013, there was an application in the case of Mireskandari v Centaur Media PLC. Judgment was reserved and will be given on 19 November 2013.
We have already discussed the hearing on 14 November 2013 before Dingemans J in the case of Contostavlos v Mendahun & ors concerning the costs of the action.
On the same day the Court of Appeal gave judgment in the case of Ansari v Knowles ( EWCA Civ 1448). The appeal against Eady J’s refusal to strike out the claim on a Jameel basis was dismissed.
25 November 2013, 6 pm: Institute of Advanced Legal Studies Lecture “‘Seen to be Done? Transparency and Opacity in Courts: Developments and Issues’ – James Michael”
28 November 2013: IBC Legal Conference, “Social Media and the Law 2013“, at the Millennium Knightsbridge Hotel, 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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
Australia: The claim for defamation and malicious falsehood in the case of Born Brands v Nine Network Australia Pty (No.6)  NSWSC 1651 was dismissed by Adamson J. The judge found that the meanings contended for by the plaintiff were not conveyed and, if they had been conveyed they were not defamatory. She upheld the defences of truth and contextual truth.
Canada: In the case of Information and Privacy Commissioner et al v. United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 401, 2013 SCC 62 the Supreme Court held that provisions of the Alberta Personal Information Protection Act which prohibited a Union for filming individuals crossing a picket line were unconstitutional as an unreasonable infringement of freedom of expression. There was a post about the decision on the Canadian Privacy Law blog.
Toronto mayor Rob Ford has said that he will take legal action against former staffers for alleging in interviews with police that he partied with a prostitute and snorted cocaine, among other transgressions. Such an action seems, however, to be misconceived. Meanwhile, it has been disclosed that the Toronto Star paid Can$5,000 for latest Ford video. The paper defended its action on the basis that it was not paying a source for information but was purchasing the video.
Jordan : The son of Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, has won a libel action against Al-Jazeera. A court in Amman has apparently ordered the defendants to pay a fine of 425,000 Jordanian Dinars (US$600,535) in addition to lawyer fees and all other expenses. In September, a US court in Washington dismissed a libel case by Abbas against US magazine Foreign Policy.
Liberia: The Liberian publisher Rodney Sieh has been released from prison after lawyers for former agriculture minister Dr Chris Toe indicated that they were considering dropping his libel claim.
Malta: A politician who was sued for describing a development project as a case of ‘blatant corruption’ has won the case on the basis that the words were fair comment. The magistrate noted that although the word corruption had implications commonly associated with the taking of money, it also had other meanings too. However, a woman who sent an e-mail to several friends blaming a vet for her dog’s death was fined €250 for defamation by a magistrate.
Research and Resources
- Online Pornography: Censoring the UK’s Internet?, Olly Lennard on Fair Observer
- Extending Common Law Qualified Privilege to the Media: A Comparison of the English and Australian Approaches, (2002) 7.2 Media & Arts Law Review 87-10, Roy Baker , Macquarie Law School.
- Defamation and the Culture Wars, (2009) 14.4 Media & Arts Law Review 425-454,Roy Baker , Macquarie Law School
- The Rookie and the Silk: Learning the ‘Ordinary Reasonable Person’ in Defamation Law (2007) 12.4 Media & Arts Law Review 399-422, Roy Baker, Macquarie Law School
- Defamation and the Moral Community, Deakin Law Review, Vol. 13, No. 1, pp. 1-35, 2008, Roy Baker , Macquarie Law School,
- Rethinking the Defamation Jury, (2008) 13.4 Media & Arts Law Review 422-446, Roy Baker, Macquarie Law School,
- Defamatory Comment on the Judiciary: Lange Qualified Privilege in Popovic v Herald & Weekly Times (2002) 7.3 Media & Arts Law Review 213 – 222, Roy Baker, Macquarie Law School
Next week in the courts
On 18 November 2013, there will be a statement in open court before Bean J in the case of Jordan v Northern & Shell Plc.
On 19 November 2013, judgment will be given in the case of Mireskandari v Centaur Media PLC (heard 12 November 2013).
On 20 November 2013 there will an application in the case of The King Fahad Academy v Express Newspapers.
The following reserved judgments after public hearings remain outstanding:
AVB v TDD 1 November 2013, (Bean J).
Otuo v Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1 November 2013 (HHJ Moloney QC)
Mitchell MP v News Group, 7 November 2013 (Master of the Rolls, Richards and Elias LJJ).