Last week was Week 12 of the phone hacking trial at the Old Bailey and perhaps the most interesting so far. Peter Jukes’ live tweets provided minute by minute updates of some gripping evidence. On Monday 27 January 2014 the Court heard evidence from the actor Jude Law.
On Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, there was evidence from former Mirror Group and News of the World journalist Dan Evans. He was cross-examined for over two days by Tim Langdale QC, for Andy Coulson.
Finally, on Friday there was some short evidence by video link from Sienna Miller in New Orleans. At the end of her evidence Mr Justice Saunders said: “I am very sorry that was has been said in court and reported in the press has caused you upset. But it been necessary”. We continued to have regular trial reports from Martin Hickman (courtesy of the Hacked Off blog).
The House of Lords Select Committee on Communications will publish its report on Media Plurality on Tuesday 4 February 2014. This is the long awaited report of an inquiry which commenced in March 2013.
There were two libel statements in open court this week (dealt with below) and some libel news stories. There was widespread coverage for a libel action launched by author J K Rowling against the Daily Mail over an article headlined “How JK Rowling’s sob story about her past as a single mother has left the churchgoers who cared for her upset and bewildered” (which has now been taken down). There were reports of the action in Press Gazette, on the Greenslade Blog, and in the Independent.
The Press Gazette also reported that Russell Brand is suing the Sun on Sunday for libel over claims that he cheated on girlfriend Jemima Khan with a glamour model. There was also a report of a privacy action against the Sunday Express by England rugby player, Mike Tindall over a story concerning a “marriage blip” with Zara Phillips.
There was a one off session of the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee on 28 January 2014. Evidence was given by Lord Hunt of the PCC. A number of MPs were unimpressed but this produced only limited media comment – in the Press Gazette and on Roy Greenslade’s blog. There was also a piece by Roy Greenslade in the Evening Standard. The Committee also heard evidence from Jonathan Heawood of the Impress Project – which the press is continue to refuse to engage with or write about. We had a post about the hearing.
IPSO is advertising for a Chair – at a salary of £150,000 per annum which is £7,500 more than the Prime Minister. As reported by Zelo Street former MP Louise Mensch fell into some confusion about this – complaining that it was “advertised by the State”. It is, of course, the press not the State that will be paying this generous stipend.
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
There were two statements in open court on 29 January 2014.
First, there was a statement in open court [pdf] in the case of Abdul Shizad v Express Newspapers. This concerned a false allegation against an Afghan refugee that he was a “Taliban suspect”. There is a news item about this on the Bindmans website.
Second, there was a statement in open court in the case of Fox v Boulter, the action by the former Defence Secretary, Dr Liam Fox relating to remarks made by Harvey Boulter on Sky News in 2011. There were news reports about this case in, amongst other places, the BBC website in the Guardian.
Newspapers, Journalism and regulation
There were no adjudications by the Press Complaints Commission this week. There were thirteen published resolved complaints. 7 against the Daily Mail, 2 against the Mail on Sunday, one against the Independent and 3 against local newspapers.
In the Courts
Another quiet week in the Courts. The hearing of the damages assessment in Horne v Dempster took place on 30 January 2014. [Updated 2]
Judgment was reserved. The claimant was awarded damages of £9,000 in respect of “a torrent of salacious abuse” on Facebook. The Mail had a news story about the case under the headline “Old Etonian businessman wins £9,000 libel damages payout after he was dubbed Mr Toad on disgruntled pub employee’s Facebook page” and the Telegraph’s account was headlined, “Old Etonian lampooned as ‘Mr Toad’ by locals on Facebook wins libel case”
2 February 2014: Westminster Media Forum “European media policy – preparing for the converged landscape“.
22 February 2014: “ Oxford Media Convention, IPPR” Said Business School, University of Oxford
24 February 2014: Edgehill University” Law Alumni Networking Event – Media Law Panel: The Defamation Act 2013” 5:45 pm – 8:00 pm in B001
23-24 April 2014, “1984: Freedom and Censorship in the Media – Where Are We Now?“, University of Sunderland, London Campus, Canary Wharf.
24 and 25 May 2014,“Understanding Transition, Austerity, Communication and the Media“, University of Bucharest.
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
Canada: The online political forum Free Dominion has shut down after defeat in a libel case brought by human rights lawyer Richard Warman. On 23 January 2014 the Ontario Superior Court of Justice order the operators of the forum to pay Mr Warman a total of US$85,000 in costs and granted a permanent injunction (Warman v. Fournier, 2014 ONSC 412).
It is reported that the National Council of Canadian Muslims has filed a notice of libel in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice that accuses the Prime Minister’s spokesman Jason MacDonald of acting maliciously when he made a comment which it says linked the organisation to a terrorist group.
Northern Ireland. The Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt has claimed overwhelming support in his bid to reform Northern Ireland’s libel laws to incorporate the provisions of the Defamation Act 2013 into the law of the province. The matter has been referred to the Northern Ireland Law Commission.
United States: PogoWasRight reports that two privacy-related bills passed the California Assembly this week. Both bills will now be considered by the Senate. More information can be found on the website of the Paparrazzi Reform Initiative.
Research and Resources
- House of Commons Library, Standard Note, “Defamation Act 2013” [pdf], Joanna Dawson (13pp)
- “What the new Defamation Act means for the NHS and other health providers”, Hill Dickinson.
- “Defamation Act 2013: not all bad news for corporate claimants”, Louise Lambert, Olswang.
- “Where’s the line between scientific post-publication peer review critiques and libel?”, Retraction Watch
- “The Royal Charter: Press regulation without volunteers”, Jon Slattery, In Publishing
- “Ask the authors: Conflict in the Court — an inside look at New York Times v. Sullivan and its progeny”, SCOTUS Blog.
Next week in the courts
On 4 February 2014, Tugendhat J will hand down judgment in the case of RBos Shareholders Action Group v News Group Newspapers (heard on 23 January 2014).
On the same day there is an application in the case of Tse v Fung (listed for trial on 10 February 2014).
The following reserved judgments after public hearings remain outstanding:
Makudi v Triesman, 28 November 2013 (Laws, Tomlinson and Rafferty LJJ).
Mount v Hodder & Staughton Limited, 16 January 2014 (Tugendhat J) Case now settled [Updated]
A v British Broadcasting Corporation, 22 and 23 January 2014 (Supreme Court)
Horne v Dempster, 30 January 2014 (HHJ Mackie QC) Judgment was, in fact, given at the hearing [Updated 2]