Media and Law RoundupThis was Week 6 of the phone hacking trial of Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson and six others at the Old Bailey.  The jury only heard evidence for one day Thursday 5 December (see #pressform collection of links, Day 25). The Court heard evidence relating to the misconduct in public office counts. 

Evidence was heard from the former press secretary to Prince Charles, Paddy Harverson. Legal argument was heard on 4 and 6 December 2013.  The case continues today.

However, the most widely discussed media law story of the week was the libel action brought by PC Toby Rowland, the officer at the centre of the “Plebgate” row, against Andrew Mitchell MP. This came after a press conference on 26 November 2013 at which Mr Mitchell repeatedly accused PC Rowland of lying. There are now two libel actions arising out of this incident – Mr Mitchell’s action against the Sun and now a “mirror” action by PC Rowland against Mr Mitchell.

Two other libel actions were also in the news.  First, a libel action by pro-cannabis campaigner Peter Reynolds against blogger Sarah McCulloch was dismissed by the High Court which ordered the claimant to pay the defendant’s costs.  The case is reported in the Jewish Chronicle.  The background is set out on the defendant’s website.

Second, the Press Gazette reports that former England footballer Paul Gascoigne is suing the Daily Express and the Daily Star for defamation and misuse of private information over claims that he injected cocaine into his leg.

The debate about press regulation continues. The Newspaper Society announced on 5 December 2013 that “publishers from across the national, regional, local and periodical press” had been meeting to sign contracts to establish IPSO – a new self-regulator which it claimed would be operational by 1 May 2014.  It was suggested that “90% of national newspapers” were on board – although other reports suggested that the Guardian, the Independent and the Financial Times had not signed up.  Dominic Ponsford suggested on the Press Gazette editor’s blog that they would have to sign up eventually.  Hacked Off condemned IPSO as a creation of a secretive group of big companies and an exercise “designed to pull the wool over the eyes of the public”.

However, yesterday a rival self-regulator, IMPRESS, was announced by a group which includes Sir Harry Evans.  We had a post about this launch.

On 2 December 2013, the Defamation Act 2013 (Commencement)(England and Wales) Order and the Defamation (Operators of Websites) Regulations 2013 were made.  Insofar as the Defamation Act 2013 is not already in force it will come into force on 1 January 2014. It will apply to causes of action “accrued” after that date.  In other words, to libels published from 1 January 2014 onwards.

Statements in Open Court

We are not aware of any statements in open court this past week.

Journalism and regulation

There were no adjudications by the Press Complaints Commission this week. There were nine resolved complaints: Laura Clegg v Daily Mail (Clauses 1 and 3), A woman v The Mail on Sunday (Clauses 1 and 3), Ms Zoe Harcombe v Daily Mail (Clause 1), Mr Sean McGrath v Southern Daily Echo (Clause 1), Miss Tracey Makin v Sunday Life (Clauses 3 and 4), Mr David Bennett v Daily Mail (Clauses 1, 2, 3 and 4), Ms Macarena Parada v Sevenoaks Chronicle (Clauses 1, 3, 4, 6, 9, 12), Mr Joseph O’Leary v The Daily Telegraph (Clause 1), Mr Sean McGrath v Yorkshire Post (Clause 1)

In the Courts

On 3 and 4 December 2013 Nicola Davies J heard the assessment of damages in the case of Flood v Times Newspapers. Judgment was reserved.

On 5 December 2013 Tugendhat J heard an application in the case of Fox v Boulter.  Judgment was reserved.

On 4 and 5 December 2013, Nicol J heard an application relating to costs in the case of Kearns v Kemp. The judge ordered Mr Kearns to pay costs on the standard basis up to 10 May 2013 and indemnity costs after that date. He ordered the claimant to pay £82,000 on account on of costs within 14 days.  There is a summary of the case on Ms Kemp’s website.

On 5 December 2013, the Court Martial Appeal court announced its decision in the case of R v Marines A to E. It dismissed the appeal of the media in relation to the Judge’s refusal to provide copies of a DVD shown in Court.  It held that it had no jurisdiction to hear the Marines appeals.  It, however, reconstituted itself as a Divisional Court and granted permission to Marines D and E and quashed the Judge Advocate General’s order.  It granted permission to Marines B and C but, by a majority, dismissed their applications but continued the anonymity orders pending an application for permission to appeal.  It refused permission to Marine A and he was named as Sergeant Alexander Blackman.  The reasons for the decision will be handed down this week.

On the same day HHJ Moloney QC handed down judgment in the case of Otuo v The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. The judgment is not yet available.


2 February 2014: Westminster Media Forum  “European media policy – preparing for the converged landscape

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 year or next year? Please let Inforrm know:

Media Law in Other Jurisdictions

Australia:  In the case of Setka v Abbott ([2013] VSCA 345) the Victoria Court of Appeal refused leave to a trade union leader to appeal against a decision refusing his application to strike out the defences of the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, to a libel action.  There is a discussion of the case on the Defamation Watch blog.

In the case of Kim Ahmed v Harbour Radio a New South Wales jury have found in favour of the wife of convicted sex offender, despite the fact that Justice Henric Nicholas had directed a verdict for the defendant in relation to three imputations. There is a report in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Canada:  It is reported that Ontario’s sexual assault centres are seeking to intervene in the appeal of two sisters sued for libel after accusing their uncle of abuse.  The sisters sent emails to relatives and friends telling them that their uncle – who was never charged – absued them as children.  They were ordered to pay Can$125,000 damages.

Malaysia: The Court of Appeal has upheld a High Court decision awarding damages of RM250,000 to Mohammed Nizar against the newspaper Utusan Melayu over an allegation that he misused public funds to buy a rare numberplate.

Philippines:  Senator Juan Ponce Enrile has won a libel case against the Philippine Daily Inquirer in relation to an article which accused him of corruption.

Next week in the courts

On 10 and 11 December 2013 the Court of Appeal (Maurice Kay, Moore-Bick and Lloyd-Jones LJJ) will hear the appeal in the case of Miller v Associated Newspapers.  This is an appeal against a judgment of Sharp J ([2012] EWHC 3721 (QB)) in which she awarded a sum of £65,000 libel damages against the Daily Mail.

On 11 December 2013 there will be an application on Kafevsky v Channel Four Television Corporation.


The following reserved judgments after public hearings remain outstanding:

AVB v TDD 1 November 2013, (Bean J).

Makudi v Triesman, 28 November 2013 (Laws, Tomlinson and Rafferty LJJ).

Vaughan v London Borough of Lewisham. 28 and 29 November 2013 (Sir David Eady).

Flood v Times Newspapers. 3 and 4 December 2013 (Nicola Davies J).

Fox v Boulter, 5 December 2013 (Tugendhat J).