The defence case in the phone hacking trial at the Old Bailey did not begin until Thursday 20 February 2014. Rebekah Brooks began her evidence in chief, which continued for 2 days and will resume on Tuesday 25 February 2014. This will be Week 15 of the trial.
The world’s media were out in force for the appearance of Mrs Brooks. On Wednesday the prosecution closed its case by putting before the jury some further admissions and documents, including an email in which Mrs Brooks revealed that Tony Blair had offered to act as an “unofficial adviser” to News International after the revelations of the hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone.
A summary of Week 14, in live tweets, can be found on Peter Jukes’ Fothom Blog. The #pressreform blog has its usual comprehensive collections of tweets and links from Day 54 (Wednesday), Day 55 (Thursday) and Day 56 (Friday).
Another Metropolitan Police Officer, PC Tim Edwards, has been charged as a result of Operation Elveden. His is the 55th person to be arrested in connection with this operation. There is a story about the arrest in the Press Gazette.
The PressBof legal challenge to the Cross-Party Royal Charter on the Self-Regulation of the Press continues its ill-fated journey through the courts. On 19 February 2014, PressBof was refused permission to appeal by a single judge on the papers. It can renew its application at an oral hearing. There is a story this in the Press Gazette.
Meanwhile Roy Greenslade suggested that Lord Chris Smith – a member of the IPSO “Foundation Group” – is a “shoo-in” as the new body’s chair.
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
We are not aware of any statements in open court this week.
Newspapers, Journalism and regulation
There was burst of activity from the PCC with four adjudications this week (there having been only 2 since 26 November 2013):
- Two employees of RBS v Daily Telegraph: This concerned complaints of breach of Clauses 3 (privacy) and 10 (subterfuge) concerning an article based on surreptitious recordings of telephone calls between the complainants and executive of a company called Trihealth. The complainants were identified by name. They accepted that there was a public interest in the broader story but not in them. The recordings had been made by Trihealth executives without consent but without subterfuge and then supplied to the newspaper unsolicited. There was no breach of clause 10. The disclosure of the complainants’ names and actions as RBS employees was not private information and there was no breach of clause 3. The complaint was not upheld.
- Julie Johnson v Basildon Echo: This concerned an article about the committal for contempt of the complainant’s former husband. This had been inaccurate in certain respects but it was held that sufficient remedial action had been taken. Further complaints under clause 1 and a complaint under clause 3 were dismissed.
- Julie Johnson v Daily Mail: This concerned an article in the Daily Mail with the same subject matter. It was again held that sufficient remedial action had been offered and the complaints under clauses 1 and 3 were dismissed.
- PAPRYRUS v The Sentinel (Staffordshire). This was complaint on behalf of PAPYRUS, the Prevention of Young Suicide in which it was said that an article contained excessive detail about a method of suicide in breach of clause 5. The article reported an inquest – the newspaper had chosen to omit significant details of the evidence and had, in the circumstances stayed on the right side of the line.
There were also eight published resolved complaints: two concerning the Daily Mail and one each concerning the Observer, the Daily Echo (Bournemouth), The Sun, the Edinburgh Evening News, the Mail on Sunday and the Sutton Guardian.
Roy Greenslade reports that a large number of British Muslim organisations and interfaith bodies have complained to the Daily Mail about an article by columnist Richard Littlejohn.headlined Jolly jihadi boys’ outing to Legoland, which they said “deployed hateful Muslim stereotypes” and “used slurs commonly found in racist and far-right websites.” The full letter can be found on the Muslim Council of Britain website.
In the Courts
On 18 February 2014, Tugendhat J handed down judgment on the security for costs application in the case of Ontulmus v Collett ( EWHC 294 (QB)). He ordered the claimants to provide security for the third defendant’s costs in the initial sum of £750,000.
On 19 February 2014, Tugendhat J gave judgment in the case of Krause v Associated Newspapers ( EWHC 293 (QB)). The claim was struck out.
On 21 February 2014 there was an application in the case of Jerrard v Blyth before Sir David Eady. This was adjourned part heard to 24 February 2014.
24 February 2014: Edgehill University” Law Alumni Networking Event – Media Law Panel: The Defamation Act 2013” 5:45 pm – 8:00 pm in B001
26 February 2014: “ Oxford Media Convention, IPPR” Said Business School, University of Oxford
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
In Trout Point Lodge Ltd. v. Handshoe, 2014 NSSC 62 the Supreme Court of Novia Scotia assessed damages in a claim by Canadian plaintiffs against a blogger in Mississippi. The judge awarded the three plaintiffs general damages of Can $135,000 and the individual plaintiffs a total of Can$60,000 aggravated damages. He also awarded punitive damages of Can$50,000. He also awarded copyright damages in the total sum of Can$180,000. The same plaintiffs have already recovered substantial damages against the same defendant in an earlier action (2012 NSSC 245). These awards cannot be enforced against the defendant in the United States.
The case of Ironside v. Delazzari, 2014 ONSC 999 (CanLII) arose out of the breakdown of a business partnership. Mr Delazzari placed an automatic re-direct on the plaintiff’s website to a message suggesting he was an “internet/eBay scammer” and directing customer’s to Mr Delazzari’s website. Damages of Can$50,000 were awarded along with aggravated damages of Can$25,000 and punitive damages of Can10,000.
In the case of Chayer c. Messier, 2014 QCCS 357 (judgment in French) the Quebec Superior Court awarded Can$5,000 moral damages and Can$5,000 punitive damages in respect of defamatory allegations published on the internet.
The Canadian Tamil Congress has won a Can$53,000 libel judgment against Rohan Gunaratna, prominent international security expert who charged in a newspaper article that the congress was a front for a terrorist group.
It is reported that two members of the Canadian Armed forces have been arrested for defamatory libel in connection with an investigation into comments on a private Facbeook page.
The Wikimedia Foundation has said that it will support the defence of Dimitris Liourdis, a 23-year-old trainee lawyer from Athens, was sued for libel last year for writing about a Greek politician, Theodore Katsanevas on Wikipedia. There is a story about the case on arstechnica.
The trial of the libel claim brought by former President Baharrat Jagdeo against Kaieteur News columnist, Fredrick Kissoon is continuing. There is a report in Kaieteur News.
On 15 February 2014, the Mayor of Waterford, John Cummins, obtained a temporary injunction directing Twitter to take down what he described as utterly baseless allegations which had been Tweeted. Mr Justice Gilligan made an order under section 33 of the Defamation Act 2009. The matter was adjourned to next week. There is a report in the Irish Examiner.
On 17 February 2014, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns heard an application for disclosure in the case of Norris v Burke. The claim is by Senator David Norris against food critic Helen Burke. On the application Ms Burke is seeking disclosure of documents which she claims show that the plaintiff has an ambivalent attitude to underage sex and incest. There was a report in the Irish Independent.
It has been reported that, after his period of reflection, Conservative Party leader Colin Craig has decided to sue Green Party leader Russel Norman for defamation in relation to statements he made at Big Gay Out. Mr Norman told a television crew
“Now the thing about Colin Craig is he thinks that a woman’s place is in the kitchen and a gay man’s place is in the closet.”
It appears that Mr Craig is proposing to sue Mr Norman only under section 24 of the Defamation Act 1992 (declaration and costs only)
Mr Justice Gillen refused to grant Brendan Conway an injunction against the Sunday World. There is a report of the decision in the Belfast Telegraph one on the BBC News website. There is also an article about the case by regular Inforrm contributor Olivia O’Kane.
A woman whose private photographs appeared on a website for prostitutes was awarded £28,000 damages by the High Court. Master McCorry assessed damages for defamation and harassment in the sum of £15,000 and damages for misuse of private information in the sum of £3,000. He also awarded aggravated damages of £10,000. There is a report about the case in the Belfast Telegraph.
The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility issued a statement concerning the Supreme Court ruling on the Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act, It has said that the online libel has become a bigger constraint to people’s right to free speech following the court’s affirmation of its legality. It welcomed however other aspects of the judgment which declared various provisions of the Act unconstitutional.
A stockbroker who worked at the brokerage depicted in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street has filed a US$25m claim against the producers of the film for allegedly portraying him as a depraved criminal with an appetite for drugs and sex. There is a report in the Guardian.
Research and Resources
- “Law struggling to keep pace with changes in social media”, Cliona Kimber, Irish Times, 17 February 2014.
- “Tacit Citing – The Scarcity of Judicial Dialogue between the Global and the Regional Human Rights Mechanisms in Freedom of Expression Cases”, Antonine Buyse, Utrecht University School of Law, SSRN.
- Book: Freedom of expression and the Internet, Prof. Wolfgang Benedek and Dr Matthias C. Kettemann, ISBN 978-92-871-7702-5, Council of Europe, 2014, €29
- “2013 State of the Law Regarding Internet Intermediary Liability for User-Generated Content”, [in the US], Catherine R Gellis, SSRN
- “New UK Web Defamation Rules for User Content: What Canadian Website Operators Need to Know“, Keith Rose, McCarthy Tétrault LLP
Next week in the courts
On Monday 24 February 2014, Sir David Eady will continue hearing the applications in Jerrard v Blyth (which were adjourned part heard on Friday 21 February 2014).
On the same day Mr Justice Tugendhat will hear an application in the case of NB v OS and others.
On Wednesday 26 February 2014 there will be an application in the case of Mole v Hunter.
On Friday 28 February 2014 there will be a trial of the issue as to meaning in the case of Johnston v League Publications Ltd and others, a libel action brought by the former Chairman of the Barrow Raiders in relation to an article and an interview published in Rugby Leaguer & League Express
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)
NAB v Serco, 7 February 2014 (Bean J)