Week 16 of the phone hacking trial concluded, as it had begun, with Rebekah Brooks in the witness box (Day 61). Her marathon session of evidence in chief finally conclude at 4pm on Tuesday 4 March (Day 62). After a few questions on behalf of some of her co-defendants, the prosecution cross-examination began on Wednesday 5 March (Day 63) and continued on Thursday (Day 64).
The Court did not sit on Friday, “Grayling Day” when the criminal legal profession was out in force protesting about legal aid cuts.
The headlines from James Doleman’s posts in the Drum give a good flavour of the main headline points which arose in the course of the week:
- Monday: “The hacker, the publicist and the purged emails” and “Rebekah Brooks testifies on ‘paranoia’ as the police closed in”.
- Tuesday: “Blair, Murdoch and MFI”, “Resignations, panda cars and three sheets to the wind”.
- Wednesday: “Rebekah Brooks questioned on News International ‘cover up’”, “Max Clifford’s deal, no questions asked and the missing emails”.
- Thursday: “Binology, cooking the books and affairs of the heart”, “Taking a punt on Blunkett, crack and paying the police”.
Even more media attention has been devoted to the trial of Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius in South Africa. The High Court allowed live TV broadcasts of the trial for the first time in South Africa, with a number of special conditions. There were 80 journalists in Court with an additional 200 in an “overspill room”. The trial was briefly adjourned on Tuesday after the prosecution complained that a photograph of the first witness had been published against her wishes. A survey of the media coverage, including links, hashtags and commentators, can be found here.
In remarks reported in the Times [£] on Thursday 6 March, the novelist Hilary Mantel said that “public life and freedom of speech is compromised by a conformist and trivialising culture”. Roy Greenslade considered her remarks in a blog post entitled “Hilary Mantel is right – freedom is compromised by media bullying”.
The European Justice and Home Affairs Council (JHA) discussed – on 4 March 2014 – the data protection reform framework, including the General Data Protection Regulation, and ‘broadly supported’ the Presidency’s proposed reforms [pdf]. Next week the European Parliament is scheduled to adopt its version of the Regulation.
Meanwhile, a number of groups representing journalists and publishers across Europe [pdf] have called for a legally binding exemption for journalists to be included in the new Data Protection Regulation.
The new minister responsible for Data Protection, Simon Hughes MP, spoke at the ICO’s Data Protection Practitioner Conference on 3 March 2014. He announced that the Government had begun to review the sanctions available for breaches of data protection law so that they could decide whether to increase penalties.
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 has a round up of the latest ABC UK national newspaper circulation figures. The Guardian and the i were the only newspapers which increased their print sales in the previous 12 months (by 1.47% and 0.64% respectively). The highest daily circulations were the Sun (2,048,977) and the Daily Mail (1,727,118)
There were no PCC adjudications this week. There were four published resolved complaints – against the Sun, the Times, the Guardian and the Evening Standard. The PCC has also published its Month Summary of Concluded Complaints [pdf] for January 2014.
In the Courts
The trial of preliminary issues as to publication, meaning and comment in the case of McEvoy v Michael concluded on 3 March 2014 in the High Court in Cardiff. There were reports of the case on Walesonline and the Daily Mail – both concentrating on one of the eight libels alleged and not dealing with the “publication” and comment issues at all.
On 4 March 2014, Tugendhat J heard an application in Abbas v London Bangla Ltd. Judgment was reserved.
On 5 March 2014, Tugendhat J heard applications in the case of Mensah v Darroch. Judgment was reserved.
The case of Berg v Jones, listed to begin on 17 March 2014 has now settled.
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
African Court on Human and People’s Rights:
On 20 March 2014, the Court will hear an application by Lohé Issa Konaté, a journalist from Burkina Faso who was sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment for insulting and defaming a local prosecutor. MLDI is supporting the case and will be arguing that criminal libel laws violate the right to freedom of expression.
The Supreme Court in New South Wales ruled that Chris Kenny, a News Ltd columnist, could proceed with his libel action against the national broadcaster, ABC, over segment in a satirical programme which depicted him as having sex with a dog. There is a report in the Age. Meanwhile Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has warned ABC that it should expect to be questioned about spending taxpayer’s money defending the case.
The District Court “Twitter libel” decision in Mickle v Farley ( NSWDC 295) attracted widespread media comment, including pieces in the Sydney Morning Herald, the Daily Telegraph and the Canberra Times. We had a post on the case from the Gazette of Law and Journalism.
The high profile libel trial in the case of Awan v Levant began on 3 March 2014 in Toronto. The plaintiff, a Saskatchewan lawyer, claim that Sun News Network host Ezra Levant caused him “tremendous damage” with blog posts which labelled him as a jihadist and a liar. There were reports about the opening of the trial in the National Post and in the Huffington Post. The defendant gave evidence on Friday 7 March explaining why he had branded the defendant a liar.
In the case of Woods v Plewes 2014 BCSC 318, the Supreme Court of British Columbia dismissed a libel action based on a document circulated by the defendant to his employers concerning workplace issues. The judge held that the occasion was protected by qualified privilege and malice had not been established.
The case of Jagdeo v Kissoon continues in the High Court with the defendant seeking permission to amend the defence.
Research and Resources
- “How do EU and US privacy regimes compare?”, Privacy and Information Law Blog.
- “Six things to know to avoid being sued for defamation in Australia”, Paul Farrell, Guardian
- “The Defamation Injunction Meets the Prior Restraint Doctrine”, Doug Rendleman, Washington and Lee Legal Studies, Paper No 2014-8, SSRN.
Next week in the courts
On 10 March 2014, Dingmans J will hear a PTR in the case of Styles v Photographer AAA and ors.
On 12 March 2014 there will be an application in the case of Building Register Ltd v Weston & anr.
On the same day Tugendhat J will continue hearing the application in NS v OS (adjourned from 3 March 2014).
On the same day the Supreme Court (Lady Hale and Lords Kerr, Reed, Hughes and Toulson) will give judgment in the case of R (on the application of British Sky Broadcasting Limited) (Respondent) v The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis (Appellant)
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)
McEvoy v Michael 3 March 2014 (HHJ Keyser QC)
Abbas v London Bangla Ltd.. 4 March 2014 (Tugendhat J)
Mensah v Darroch, 5 March 2014 (Tugendhat J)