This was Week 7 of the phone hacking trial of Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson and (now) five others at the Old Bailey. The jury were discharged from entering a verdict against the eighth defendant former NOTW news editor Ian Edmondson after the judge ruled that he was “currently unfit”.
The jury heard evidence on all five days of the week (see #pressform collection of links and our post on resources for the trial). This week, Evidence was heard about internal royal telephone directories which Clive Goodman is alleged to have bought. There was evidence by video link from Los Angeles of a witness concerning a conversation about “tapping phones” between Piers Morgan and Rebekah Brooks.
The judge condemned a “deeply prejudicial” Christmas Card sent by Labour MP Nick Brown, featuring Rebekah Brooks and David Cameron. The trial continues.
David Cameron was himself in trouble with a judge after his “pro Nigella Lawson” comments to a journalist during the high profile trial of Elisabetta and Francesca Grillo on fraud charges at which Ms Lawson was a witness. The judge said that it was “of regret when people in public office comment about a person who is involved in a trial which is in progress”. That trial is also continuing.
There has been some debate this week about the new proposed independent regulator, IMPRESS although, as usual, this has been largely confined to the Guardian and the Press Gazette – the remainder of the national newspapers continuing their policy of refusing to publish any alternative views on the press regulation debate. In an article in the Guardian, Sir Harold Evans’ backing for the new plan was discussed. The Guardian also published a piece by IMPRESS director, Jonathan Heawood. Roy Greenslade discusses “Impress versus Ipso” on his blog, In the Press Gazette Dominic Ponsford has a report entitled “Independence key selling point for Sir Harry’s Impress regulator – but funding could be stumbling block.
With the Defamation Act 2013 coming into force on 1 January 2014, there has been a small but significant change in the Civil Procedure Rules. By an amendment to CPR 26.11 the right to jury trial in claims for libel and slander is removed. CPR 26.11(2) now provides that
A claim for libel or slander must be tried by Judge alone, unless at the first case management conference a party applies for trial with a jury and the court makes an order to that effect.
This represents, in practice, the end of libel jury trials – one of the last survivals of the common law method of trying civil cases (see our 2102 post on the historical background). Perhaps surprisingly, very few civil liberties campaigners spoke out for the preservation of the involvement of the general public in libel trials. The right to jury trial now only exists for claims in false imprisonment and malicious prosecution.
Statements in Open Court
We are not aware of any statements in open court this past week.
Journalism and regulation
There were no adjudications published by the Press Complaints Commission this week. There were Powell v Birmingham Mail (Clause 1), Landers v Darlington and Stockton Times (Clause 1), Dobson v Sun (Clause 1), Fellows v Sunday Mercury (Clauses 1 and 5), Choudry v Daily Mail (Clause 1), Buchan v Daily Mail (Clause 1), Rape Crisis v Daily Mail (Clause 1), Brown v Lincolnshire Echo (Clauses 3 and 5), Cousins v Times (Clause 1).
In the Courts
We noted last week that judgment in the case of Otuo v Watchtower Bible and Tract Society was handed down on 5 December 2013 but that no copy of the judgment was available. We have now been provided with a copy of the judgment [pdf] by Mr Benjamin Pell. In the judgment HHJ Moloney refused to deal with meaning and strike out applications (the latter based on the point that issues of religion were involved) on the ground of prematurity.
On 10 and 11 December 2013 the Court of Appeal (Maurice Kay, Moore-Bick and Lloyd-Jones LJJ) heard the appeal in the case of Miller v Associated Newspapers. Judgment was reserved.
On 11 December 2013 there was an application on Kafevsky v Channel Four Television Corporation. Judgment was reserved.
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: email@example.com.
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
Australia: The Federal Court gave a judgment in the libel case brought by Conservative Party strategist Lynton Crosby against former Labor MP Mike Kelly (for the background see our post). The plaintiffs sought to have the defence of contextual truth and qualified privilege struck out. Rares J struck out certain particulars of the defence of contextual truth but refused the application in relation to the defence of qualified privilege (Crosby v Kelly  FCA 1343) There is a report of the decision in The Age.
Canada: Toronto Star report Daniel Dale has delivered a “notice of libel” to Toronto Mayor, Rob Ford, over statements suggesting that Mr Dale was photographing his children over his garden fence. There is a report of the claim on the CBC News website. The full text of the libel notice can be found here.
A judge of the Quebec Superior Court has dismissed a claim by Hasidic Jewish leaders against a Montreal blogger, Pierre Lacerte. The judge said his comments were acerbic but were based on facts. There is a report of the decision in the National Post.
In the case of Rodrigues v Rodrigues, (2013 ABQB 718) the Court of the Queen’s Bench Alberta assessed damages in a libel case brought by a Catholic priest against a Goan lawyer (no relation) based on blog posts read in Alberta alleging sexual assaults in Goa. Damages of Can$50,000 were awarded. The Judge held that she did not have power to direct a defendant who was not a newspaper or a broadcaster to apologise or retract.
Philippines: The TagaytayCity Prosecutor’s Office has dismissed the libel complaint filed by resigned Bishop Teodoro Buhain against the author of the groundbreaking book, “Altar of Secrets,” for lack of probable cause to proceed with the case. The book dealt with scandals, misdemeanors, faults and wrongdoings of Church officials and exposed long-held hidden secrets within the Catholic Church. Buhain was among the Church leaders mentioned in the book.
Romania: A number of NGOs have asked the President of Romania not to promulgate a law through which, surreptitiously, the offenses of libel and insult have been reintroduced into the Criminal Code
Next week in the courts
On Monday 16 December 2013, Tugendhat J will hear an application by Google Inc to set aside permission to serve out of the jurisdiction in the case of Vidal-Hall & ors v Google Inc
On the same day Christopher Clarke LJ will hear a renewed application for permission to appeal in the case of Thompson v James & Anr.
On Tuesday 17 December 2013, the Court Martial Appeal Court (Lord Chief Justice, Tugendhat and Holroyde JJ) will give judgment in the case of R v Marines A to E.
On the same day there will be Pre-Trial Reviews in the cases of Nouchin v Telegraph Media Group Ltd and Mole v Hunter.
On Thursday 19 December 2013, there will be Pre-Trial Reviews in the cases of Caborn-Waterfield v Gold and Usmani v Alom.
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).
Miller v Associated Newspapers, 10 and 11 December 2013 (Maurice Kay, Moore-Bick and Lloyd-Jones LJJ)
Kneafsey v Independent Television, 11 December 2013 (Tugendhat J)
A minor correction on the effect of the amendment to CPR 26.11. The amendment does not itself remove the right to jury trial (it’s s.11 of the 2013 Act which will, from 1st January, do that). What the amendment does is change the time period in which an application for jury trial must be made. Instead of 28 days after service of the defence, the deadline is now the first CMC, so parties will have longer to decide on their position as to any such application.