The Phone Hacking Trial completed its nineteenth week of hearings. Former News of the World Royal Editor, Clive Goodman was temporarily unable to continue with his evidence for health reasons. The Court did not hear evidence on Monday 24 March 2014 (Day 75).
On Tuesday (Day 76), the defence case of Rebekah Brooks’ former PA, Cheryl Carter, began. This continued on Wednesday (Day 77) and Thursday (Day 78) with the defence of Charlie Brooks beginning on Friday (Day 79). The case will continue this week.
On 26 March 2014, the Law Commission published its Second Report on Contempt of Court [pdf], recommending
- that court reporting postponement orders are all posted on a single publicly accessible website (a similar website currently operates in Scotland;
- there be a further restricted service where, for a charge, registered users could find out the detail of the reporting restriction and could sign up for automated email alerts of new orders.
As we reported on Friday, French actor and friend of the President Julie Gayet was successful in her privacy action against Closer magazine. Roy Greenslade suggests that the damages of €15,000 shows that French privacy law is not to be feared. There was a report about the decision in the Press Gazette. He points out that the magazine is believed to have made £1.7m from the story and that the vedict is unlikely to prevent privacy intrusion in the future.
It is reported that on 26 March 2014 the police arrested, Andrew Fitch-Holland, who had been a witness for the claimant in the case of Cairns v Modi, on suspicion of perverting the course of justice. He was later released on bail. The police have also been in contact with Mr Cairns but he has had no details of the nature of the enquiry.
There is no sign yet of the Chair of IPSO – an organisation which, it appears, will continue to operate from the PCC’s office in Holborn, with the same staff. Roy Greenslade comments on Jonathan Heawood’s piece about IMPRESS (also published on this blog) and on Steve Coogan’s comments about the new regulator in an interview in “Total Politics” magazine.
In a little noticed address, the Pope has turned his attention to issues of media law, commenting that although the media embodies many virtues, it also has many sins – the three most significant of which he said were those which
take the road of lies: … disinformation, slander and defamation. The last two are serious, but not as dangerous as the first. Slander is a mortal sin, but it is possible to clarify the situation and become aware that it is slander. Defamation is a mortal sin, but it is possible to say: this is an injustice, because this person did something at that time but has now repented and changed their life. But disinformation means telling half-truths, the part that is most convenient to me, and not saying the other half. Therefore, those who watch the television or listen to the radio are not able to arrive at a perfect judgement, because they do not have all the elements necessary to do so, and the media do not give them. Please, shun these three sins”
On 25 March 2014, the Article 29 Working Party issued Opinion 03/2014, on Personal Data Breach Notification [pdf]. There is a discussion of the opinion on the Privacy and Information Security Law Blog.
On 26 March 2014, the ICO launched its latest corporate plan [pdf] – promising a fresh approach to the handling of issues raised by the public around data protection concerns. There is an item about the plan on the ICO’s website.
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
We are not aware of any statements in open court this week.
Newspapers, Journalism and regulation
The regulator ATVOD, (Authority for Television on Demand) has published research which shows the scale of access by underage children to adult websites [pdf]. The regulator has called for the Government to take action to protect children from exposure to hardcore porn online. There is a report on the issue on the BBC website.
In the Courts
On Monday 24 March 2014 Tugendhat J heard applications for third party disclosure in the linked “Plebgate” cases of Mitchell v News Group and Rowland v Mitchell. He gave judgment on 27 March 2014 (Mitchell v News Group Newspapers Ltd  EWHC 879 (QB)). He refused the applications relating to third party witnesses as they were not represented.
On 26 March 2014, Sir David Eady gave judgment following the meaning trial in the case of Johnston v League Publications Ltd & Ors ( EWHC 874 (QB)). The judge found that the words complained of made defamatory allegations of fact.
The privacy trial in the case of Weller v Associated Newspapers began before Dingemans J on the same day and concluded on 27 March 2014. Judgment was reserved. We had a post about the beginning of the trial.
On Wednesday 26 March 2014, the Supreme Court (Lords Neuberger, Mance, Clarke, Wilson, Sumption, Carnwath and Toulson) gave judgment in the case of Kennedy v Charity Commission ( UKSC 20). There were a number of comments on this decision including: Roy Greenslade “Supreme court ruling opens door to revelations of secret information“, Panopticon, “FOIA’s not all that“, and Press Gazette, “Times Supreme Court victory in fight to see Galloway Iraq appeal files could ‘blow open’ Freedom of Information Act”
The same day the Court of Appeal adjourned the application for permission to appeal in the case of Cruddas v Calvert. It will be re-fixed for a later date.
On 27 March 2014, Tugendhat J gave judgment in the case of Mole v Hunter ( EWHC 658 (QB)), an action involved two litigants in person, which included a counterclaim for libel (and had, therefore, been transferred from the County Court). A default judgment on the counterclaim was set aside and the counterclaim struck out.
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
On Monday 31 March 2014, the Armenian parliament will consider a bill which would introduce restrictions on anonymity on the internet. Supporters say it should curb defamatory language on the web, but free speech advocates warn that it might also constrain legitimate expression of opinion.
In the case of Cripps v Vakras ( VSC 110) the plaintiff sued over two articles, the first of which contained a hyperlink to the second. Both articles were written by the defendant who contended that they had to be read together. This part of the defence was struck out on the basis that the second article was a separate publication which did not form part of the matter complained of.
In the case of Enders v Erbas & Associates Pty Limited ( NSWCA 70) the New South Wales Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal by the plaintiff against the finding that the words complained of, in various emails, were protected by qualified privilege and malice had not been established ( NSWDC 44).
In the case of Profumo v Bradley (No.4) ( WASC 94) Martin CJ dismissed a claim for slander in relation to statements made in the course of telephone conversations by the defendant (who is the plaintiff’s sister).
In the case of Bedessee Imports Ltd. v. K M Imports Inc. (2014 ONSC 1889) the Ontario Superior Court of Justice awarded a company which imports Caribbean food into Canada libel damages of Can$50,000. The case concerned an allegation that the plaintiff was importing a product which infringed the trademark of another company. The case was heard in October 2012 before a different judge – who could not give a decision (for reasons not made clear in the judgment). Stinson J determined the case on the basis of the trial transcript and recordings of the evidence.
The Irish Times reports that the Director-General of the national broadcaster, RTÉ has called for a relaxation of Ireland’s “restrictive” defamation laws. He suggested clarification of the “honest opinion” defence and a threshold of “serious harm”.
A defamation claim brought against a Dublin toy shop by a father and son after an arrest on suspicion of stealing a toy has been dismissed. The Judge held that CCTV footage suggested that “the incident was set up”
It is reported that former Lands minister and Voi MP Eliud Mwamunga has failed in his attempt to have a criminal libel complaint brought against him by his cousin Wilmot Mwadilo dismissed.
The New Zealand Herald reports that a defamation claim by businessmen Eric Watson and Mark Hotchin against shareholder advocate Bruce Sheppard for defamatory statements made on TV and radio at the height of anti-Hanover Finance sentiment in late 2009 has been settled. The parties agreed on a joint statement in which Sheppard acknowledged the statements he made in interviews in 2009 “may wrongly have implied that the plaintiffs were involved in transactions that were criminal or fraudulent”. The settlement figure is believed to be in six figures, making it one of the highest in New Zealand legal history.
Assembly member Mike Nesbitt, who previously tabled a bill to bring Northern Ireland libel law into line with the Defamation Act 2013, has expressed fears that libel reform is being “kicked down the road politically”. Mr Nesbitt was giving evidence to the Finance Committee. The editor of the Belfast Telegraph suggested to the Committee that this could lead to “libel tourism” in Northern Ireland.
An expat blogger has been found guilty of libelling the owners of Euroweekly News on a blog over a number of years. He was fined €1,800.
Talk show host and Independent Liberal Party member, Inshan Ishamael has been sued for libel by Arvin Kalloo of KallCo Ltd over allegations which question Mr Kalloo’s ties with a Cabinet minister. The matter was adjourned to 8 April 2014
On 27 March 2014, a Judge in South Dakota refused to dismiss a $1.2 billion defamation claim against ABC arising out of its coverage of a meat product dubbed “pink slim”. There was an Associated Press report carried by the Guardian.
Research and Resources
- “The Right to Privacy: An Argument for a Non-Derivative Right to Privacy”, Michael L Huggins, NYU, SSRN.
- “Protection of Harassment Act 1997: From Anti-Stalking Crimes to Celebrity Privacy Remedies”, Robin Callender-Smith, Queen Mary Law Journal, Vol 5, Spring 2014, SSRN.
- “Tackling Twitter and Facebook Fakes: ID Theft in Social Media”, Alexander Tsoutsanis, University of Amsterdam – Institute for Information Law, World Communications Regulation Report, 2012, vol 7, issue 4 SSRN.
Next week in the courts
On 2 April 2014, there will be a privacy trial in the case of AVB v TDD. This is expected to last 3 days. An interim injunction was granted in this case in June 2013 (see  EWHC 1705 (QB)).
On the same day there will be an assessment of damages in the case of Allan v Barnetson and an application in the case of Meadows v Lambert.
On 4 April 2014, there will be a renewed application for permission to appeal in the case of Tamiz v Guardian Newspapers.
On the same day the twice adjourned application in the case of NAB v Serco will resume before Bean J.
The following reserved judgments after public hearings remain outstanding:
A v British Broadcasting Corporation, 22 and 23 January 2014 (Supreme Court)
Small v Turner 28 February 2014 (Sir David Eady).
Weller v Associated Newspapers, 24 to 27 March 2014 (Dingemans J).