The evidence in chief given by Rebekah Brooks occupied the whole of last week of the phone hacking trial. She gave evidence for full days on Tuesday, (Day 57), Wednesday (Day 58), Thursday (Day 59) and for half a day on Friday (Day 60).
Her evidence will resume at 10.00am on 3 March 2014. This will be Week 16 of the trial. Mrs Brooks evidence produced a large number of media reports (full details can be found on the indispensable #pressreform blog). We continued to have regular trial reports from Martin Hickman. In addition to the coverage on the BBC website and in some of the national press, we would also mention the daily reports by James Doleman in the Drum.
On 26 February 2014 the CPS announced a decision to charge eight individuals with offences of misconduct in public office. These included Sun journalists Tom Wells, Neil Millard and Brandon Malinsky and former Mirror reporter Graham Brough. There was a report in the Daily Telegraph. On 28 February 2014, the CPS announced a decision to charge Simon Quinn with misconduct in a public office. Mr Quinn is a former Surrey Police officer. There was a report in The Guardian.
The Daily Mail’s repeated attacks on Labour Deputy Leader Harriet Harman concerning the links between the National Council for Civil Liberties and the Paedophile Information Exchange were finally taken up by other media outlets this week. Ms Harman issued a statement in rebuttal, as did Jack Dromey MP and former Labour minister and NCCL General Secretary, Patricia Hewitt. Roy Greenslade suggested on his blog that “Harman and Ed Miliband need to rethink how they handle the Daily Mail”
The Hawktalk blog has an interesting post on the recent decision in Edem v Information Commissioner  EWCA Civ 92), suggesting that the “Durant judgment is good as dead and buried”
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
We are not aware of any statements in open court this week.
Newspapers, Journalism and regulation
It has been reported that PCC chairman Lord Hunt has ruled himself out of contention as the Chair of IPSO – the body which the press are setting up to replace the PCC. According to Roy Greenslade, Lord Hunt’s son had convinced him it would be inappropriate.
There was one adjudication by the PCC this week, in the case of Wilton Park School v The Mai on Sunday, a complaint under clause 6 (children).
The article concerned a school run by the Plymouth Brethren which was under investigation following allegations of child cruelty made by a former teacher who had compiled a “dossier” of allegations which was the subject of the report. The investigation subsequently found that the concerns were unfounded. The PCC rejected the contention that details of whistleblowing allegations should not be published before they had been investigated. The coverage had accurately set out the allegations and included the school’s response. The PCC concluded
for the Commission to rule that as a consequence of this subsequent decision, publication of an otherwise legitimate report had posed an “unnecessary” intrusion – and thus a prima facie breach of Clause 6 – would create a serious chilling effect on reporting of matters in the public interest. There was no breach of the Code.
There were 5 published resolved complaints, concerning the Dail Mail, the NMA, the Times, the Huffington post and the Scottish Daily Mail. All were under clause 1 (accuracy).
In the Courts
On Monday 24 February 2014, Sir David Eady continued to hear the application in the case of Jerrard v Blyth. Judgment on part of the application was reserved. The remainder will be re-listed later this month.
On Wednesday 26 February 2014 the Court of Appeal handed down judgment in the case of Makudi v Triesman ( EWCA 179). The appeal was dismissed. There was an Inforrm case comment by Harry Kinmonth. There was a report on the decision in the Guardian.
On Friday 28 February 2014 Sir David Eady heard the trial of the issue as to meaning in the case of Johnston v League Publications Ltd and others. Judgment was reserved.
On the same day Sir David Eady heard an application to commit in the case of Small v Turner. Judgment was also reserved.
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 Cerutti & Anor v Crestside Pty Ltd & Anor ( QCA 33) the Queensland Court of Appeal allowed a quantum appeal by the plaintiffs in a libel case. The senior partner of an accounting firm and the firm successfully sued a former client over a letter which a jury found falsely imputed dishonest practices by them in issuing bills. The damages in favour of the senior partner were increased from Aus$7,000 to $20,000 and in favour of the firm from Aus$5,000 to $10,000.
It is reported that affidavits filed in British Columbia Supreme Court libel litigation brought by climate scientist Michael Mann against Timothy Ball have revealed that Mr Ball’s “legal advisor” has misrepresented his credentials and made false claims.
The Accra Fast Track High Court has awarded timber processing company, Evan Timbers, damages of GH¢ 300,000 (£70,000). The newspaper was sued over an article, “Why Evans Timbers Got Mpiani to Collapse One-Stop Collection Point”.
The General Secretary of the governing National Democratic Congress (NDC), Johnson Asiedu Nketia has won a defamation suit he brought against the Daily Guide newspaper. A Fast-Ttrack High Court in Accra Thursday awarded him damages to the tune of GH¢ 250,000.
The Irish Times has reported that the High Court has refused to grant food critic Helen Lucy Burke disclosure of documents she claimed would show Senator David Norris had an ambivalent attitude towards underage sex.
The Court of Appeal has allowed the appeal of the former Chief Minister of Perak, Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin, in his libel action against broadcaster TV3. The Court held that Nizar had proved his case and ordered an assessment of damages by the High Court.
An article about the Malta Football Association written eight years ago by MP Robert Arrigo has been held to be fair comment by a magistrate in a 35-page judgment. The claim, which was filed by former MFA president Joe Mifsud against Mr Arrigo and The Malta Independent editor Steve Calleja, was dismissed.
The former science and technology minister Azam Khan Swati has asked the Islamabad High Court to stop defamation proceedings initiated against him by former minister for religious affairs Hamid Saeed Kazmi.
The Court of Session has dismissed a defamation case by former Dundee FC director Calum Melville and his brother Stuart Melville against the Press and Journal.
On 24 February 2014 the Spanish Supreme Court confirmed an order that the French newspaper should pay Real Madrid and Barcelona football clubs more than €300,000 in damages for defamation in relation to a 2006 article about doping.
Trinidad: There is a piece in the Trinidad Express by columnist Dana Seetahal on “Defamation and the Amendment Bill”
Research and Resources
- · “Should Hate Speech Be Protected? Group Defamation, Party Bans, Holocaust Denial and the Divide between (France) Europe and the United States”, Ioanna Tourkochoriti, Harvard Law School, SSRN.
- Beyond Breach of Confidence: An Irish Eye on English and Scottish Privacy Law, Daithi Mac Sithigh, University of Edinburgh – School of Law, SSRN
- “The Right Not to Be Let Alone”, Gustavo Ariel Kaufman, Int J Private Law, Vol 4, 2011
Next week in the courts
On Monday 3 March 2014, HHJ Keyser QC will begin hearing the trial of preliminary issues as to publication, meaning and comment in the case of McEvoy v Michael. The case will be heard at the High Court in Cardiff and is listed for 3 days.
On 4 March 2014, there will be an application in the case of Abbas v London Bangla Ltd
The following reserved judgments after public hearings remain outstanding:
A v British Broadcasting Corporation, 22 and 23 January 2014 (Supreme Court)
NAB v Serco, 7 February 2014 (Bean J)
Jerrard v Blyth, 21 and 24 February 2014 (Sir David Eady)
Johnston v League Publications Ltd and others, 28 February 2014 (Sir David Eady)
Small v Turner 28 February 2014 (Sir David Eady)
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