The prosecution case in the Phone Hacking Trial concluded on Wednesday 5 February 2014 after 13 weeks. There will be a number of days of legal argument and the jury will not return for the defence case until 17 February 2014. We had a post dealing with the conclusion of the prosecution case – highlighting the resources available for those who wish to follow the trial.
The legal fall out of the Thompson v James libel case – brought by a blogger against the Chief Executive of Carmarthenshire County Council who himself counterclaimed – continues. The Welsh Audit Office has suggested that the decision of the council to give its Chief Executive an indemnity in the libel action was unlawful. The council disagrees and has now published legal advices from two QCs – James Goudie [pdf] and Tim Kerr [pdf] – to support its position. There were stories in the South Wales Guardian, the BBC website and the Carmarthen Journal.
A number of newspapers published paparazzi shots of Sally Bercow kissing a man in a nightclub. The Sun had this on the front page with the headline “Must tongue Sally”. Ms Bercow complained that the newspaper had failed to contact her before publication. The Press Gazette Axe Grinder blog pointed out that the Daily Mail had deployed the “infamous paparazzo gutter shot” on Ms Bercow.
The Evening Standard reported – under the headline “Mother faces paying £20,000 damages over Facebook ‘libel’” that Joanne Walder entered default judgment in a libel claim against fitness instructor Sharon Smith over comments posted on a private Facebook page. The claimant became aware of the comments after they were reposted on a public Facebook page. The headline is misleading as damages have not yet been assessed – the figure of £20,000 is simply made up.
Boxing promoter Frank Warren reports on his website that he has won a libel action against Alex Morrison. This appears to be another default judgment. The claim apparently relates to allegations made Mr Morrison about the circumstances surrounding Ricky Burns’ departure. Mr Warren is reported as saying that he is awaiting a trial date in the summer for his claim against Mr Burns.
Finally, it has been reported that the Daily Mirror has made an offer of amends to Coronation Street actor Michelle Keegan over a libel claim concerning the allegation that she tweeted endorsements for products in exchange for gifts. It remains for the parties to agree a figure for compensation and the terms of an apology.
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
We are not aware of any statements in open court this week.
Newspapers, Journalism and regulation
The Press Gazette reports on the latest date from the National Readership Survey. A total of 13.5 million people read the Sun, in print or online, with 12 million for the Mail, 5.3 million for the Guardian and 1.2 million for the Financial Times.
In a widely reported speech, News UK Chief Executive Mike Darcey, described Mail Online as a site based on copying and rewriting content from social media sites and other news outlets and said he doubted whether it would ever be profitable. Roy Greenslade has a piece about the speech entitled Mail Online’s rip-off practice is tawdry – but is Darcey jealous of its success?
There were no adjudications again this week by the Press Complaints Commission and only two published “resolved complaints”, both under clause 1: The Disasters Emergency Committee v Daily Telegraph and Graham Robson v York Press.
In the Courts
On 4 February 2014, Tugendhat J will handed down judgment in the case of RBos Shareholders Action Group v News Group Newspapers  EWHC 130 (QB). There was a 5RB case note.
On the same day there was an application in the case of Tse v Fung. The trial listed for 10 February 2014 has now been adjourned.
On 5 and 6 February 2014, there was the hearing of an application in the case of Ontulmus v Collett. Judgment was reserved.
There was a CMC in the Phone Hacking Litigation before Mann J on Friday 7 February 2014. The trial which had previously been listed for 3 June 2014 was adjourned to 1 October 2014. The Court was told that there are now some 67 claims on the “Group Register” in the litigation.
On the same day there was a hearing of an application by the Guardian in the case of NAB v Serco before Bean J. Judgment was reserved.
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: email@example.com.
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
Canada: The Winnipeg Free Press has an editorial about the threatened libel claim by the National Council of Canadian Muslims against the Government’s spokesman, entitled “Libel Suits can cut both ways”
It is reported that a Crown Attorney in Hamilton has filed a Can$1.3 million libel claim against a local defence lawyer over a letter posted on the Criminal Lawyers Association e-mail discussion group.
India: The Supreme Court of India has reportedly deferred a decision in claim by Visaka Industries against Google India in respect of offensive comments post on Blogspot.com
Malta: On 7 February 2014 the Prime Minister gave evidence in a libel action he had instituted against the opposition over a billboard suggesting that he had proposed that the minimum wage be frozen.
Indonesia: A blogger, Benny Handoko, has been found guilty and sentenced to one year probation for publishing libellous comments about a politician on twitter. Mr Handoko accused the politician of stealing money from a bank. Global Voices Advocacy has taken up his case which it describes as casting a shadow on the media landscape in Indonesia.
Ireland: Controversy continues in Ireland about a libel settlement payment of €85,000 by the broadcaster RTE to a journalist and right wing think tank over an allegation of homophobia. One of the plaintiffs said she only sought damages after a refusal by RTE to apologise. RTE blamed the country’s defamation laws for its decision to make the payment.
Scotland: In the case of Clark v Tripadvisor LLC ( CSOH 20) the petitioners were guest house owners who sought disclosure of information as to the identity of a person who posted defamatory material on the Trip Advisor site. The order for disclosure was refused on the basis that there was no jurisdiction to compel disclosure of information “from havers furth of Scotland”  [Update]
United States: It is reported that a libel action against the right wing National Review over articles accusing him of academic fraud could lead to the magazine’s demise.
Research and Resources
- “Libel Law: The Chilling Effect, Intimidation writ large or goad to good reporting?” Mary Annecchiarico, Ryerson Review of Journalism.
- “Opinion: England’s new defamation legislation sets benchmark”, Ali Romanos, NZ Lawyer.
- First Amendment Constitutionalism Alexander Tsesis, Loyola University Chicago School of Law, SSRN.
- Legal Consequences of Online Defamation in India, Ankit Valdaya, National Law Institute University (NLIU), Bhopal, SSRN
- On Business Torts and the First Amendment Richard Peltz-Steele, ABA-TIPS Media, Privacy and Defamation Law Committee News, p. 1, Winter 2014, SSRN
- “Big Data: Legal Challenges“, Shelston IP Lawyers, [Update]
Next week in the courts
There will be a trial in the case of Nouchin v Telegraph Media Group Ltd commencing on 12 February 2014. The time estimate is 2 days.
The following reserved judgments after public hearings remain outstanding:
Makudi v Triesman, 28 November 2013 (Laws, Tomlinson and Rafferty LJJ).
A v British Broadcasting Corporation, 22 and 23 January 2014 (Supreme Court)
Ontulmus v Collett 5 and 6 February 2014 (Tugendhat J)
NAB v Serco, 7 February 2014 (Bean J)
In reference to the Thompson/James story, and on reading the linked report on an earlier post on this blog it might be fair to say that, in the interests of balance, it would be better if the association of writer Gervase de Wilde with the counsel for Mr James is made clear at the beginning of the piece, rather rather obliquely at the end.