On 15 July 2014, Mr Justice Nicol handed down judgment assessing libel damages in the case of Kadir v Channel S ( EWHC 2305 (QB)). The claim concerned a broadcast in Bengali which alleged reasonable suspicions of fraud and an evasive response to those allegations to an estimated 3,500 viewers in the UK. Damages were assessed in the sum of £20,000 for each of the two claimants.
The Press Gazette reports that George Gibbs, who obtained £70,000 libel damages from the Sun after it accused him of being a paedophile has been imprisoned for life for child sex offences.
A former police officer who offered a “salacious story” about a colleague to the Sun for £10,000 was convicted of misconduct in public office and received a prison sentence of 18 months. His defence that he was “set up by colleagues” was rejected by the jury. No story was ever published. There is a report in the Press Gazette. Writing in the same publication, editor Dominic Ponsford complained that the case showed that journalists cannot trust their employers to protect sources.
The CPS announced that it had decided not to prosecute six former News of the World journalists. The decision in relation to two other journalists is still pending. There was an article about the decision in the Independent.
Walesonline reports that the defendant in a libel action by Conservative Welsh Assembly member Mohammed Ashgar, failed in his attempt to have a libel action, due for trial on 22 July 2014, struck out. Mohammed Ali Hayat claimed that Mr Ashgar had “conspired to obtain a fraudulent statement of truth” to implicate him in a possible forgery. The Judge also refused an application by Mr Ashgar to have the trial adjourned
On Thursday 17 July 2014, the Libel Reform Campaign and Scottish PEN launched a campaign for reform of the libel laws in Scotland. There was an opinion piece by Robert Sharp in the Herald.
The PanGloss blog publishes an “Open letter on data retention and investigatory powers Bill (“DRIP”) from UK Privacy law academics” signed by 15 well known specialists in the area.
The Hawktalk blog had posts “Misleading data protection statements and another reason for the emergency data retention law?” entitled “ICO confirms that Data Protection Act does not apply to emergency powers law”.
The UN High Commissioner on Human Rights has released a report on “The right to privacy in the digital age” [pdf]. Privacy International has suggested that the report will dramatically change the international conversation on the implications of surveillance and intelligence for human rights.
The Information Commissioner has released its annual report for 2013-2014, entitled “Effective, efficient and busier than ever” [pdf]. The ICO has received increasing numbers of questions and complaints from members of the public, processed record numbers of cases, and issued its highest ever level of fines, totalling almost £1.97 million.
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
There were no statements in open court last week.
Newspapers, Journalism and regulation
There were no PCC adjudications this week but there were eleven published resolved complaints – two against the Daily Mail and one each against the Metro, the Sun, the Daily Mirror, Take a Break, the Independent, the Mail on Sunday and the Staffordshire Newsletter. Two of the complaints were by members of the Royal Family, Prince Harry and Prince Andrew. There is a discussion of their complaints on Roy Greenslade’s blog.
It is reported that the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and People newsroom are to merge. Eight senior editorial roles are said to be in jeopardy. Roy Greenslade comments that this is inevitable, concluding
Doubtless, there will be protests by staff journalists. Every change during the astonishing structural newsroom upset wrought by the digital revolution is met with journalistic opposition. But they surely know by now that it will happen. It’s just modern media reality.
Last week’s Government reshuffle was the subject of considerable press coverage. The Daily Mail excelled itself with a piece entitled “Esther, the Queen of the Downing Street Catwalk”. As Roy Greenslade commented, “Daily Mail goes back in time to analyse female MPs as sex objects”. The Guardian reported that the Mail piece was condemned by a number of MPs. There was also a post on the Media Blog entitled “Mail targets women MPs with ‘wolf whistle journalism’”
In the Courts
We have already mentioned the judgment in the case of Kadir v Channel S ( EWHC 2305 (QB)) handed down on 15 July 2014.
On the same day there was an assessment of damages in Sharma v Sharma before HHJ Moloney QC. Judgment was reserved.
On 15 July 2014 a libel action against Labour MP Dai Harvard was struck out in the High Court in Cardiff. We have no further details of the case.
On 16 July 2014, Nicol J handed down judgment in the case of Cartus Corporation v Siddell ( EWHC 2266 (QB)). The Claimants’ application to continue an interim defamation injunction was refused on the ground that they had not shown that the Defendants intended to publish the words complained of.
On 17 July 2014, Nicola Davies J handed down judgment in the case of Building Register Ltd v Mark Weston ( EWHC 2361 (QB)).
On the same day there was an assessment of damages and application to commit in Royal Brompton & Harfield NHS Trust v Shaikh before HHJ Moloney QC. An ex tempore ruling was given and the matter was adjourned to 31 July 2014.
On 17 July 2014, there was an application in the case of BUQ v HRE before HHJ Moloney QC. An ex tempore ruling was given.
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
The Times of Malta reports that Magistrate Francesco Depasquale has dismissed a defamation claim by four former committee members of Happy Paws animal welfare society against the charity and its president, describing it as an abuse of the process. There is was also a report in Malta Today.
Malta Today has filed a constitutional application in relation to the case brought against them by Peter Fenech, claiming that there has been a violation of the right to freedom of expression.
It is reported that the Deputy Prime Minister, Marco Hausiku has withdrawn a defamation case in which he was suing a weekly newspaper and its editor for N$500 000 over two articles that were published two and a half years ago.
The Guardian reports that the International Transport Workers Federation has demanded that defamation claims against British slavery researcher Andy Hall should be dropped. The Natural Fruit Company filed civil and criminal cases against Mr Hall after he co-authored a report “Cheap Has a High Price” [pdf], exposing alleged labour and human rights abuses, including violence against employees, forced overtime, the use of underage labour and the confiscation of passports of Burmese migrant workers.
Research and Resources
- “An appetite for Suppression: Non-Publication Orders, Open Justice and the Protection of Privacy”, Miiko A Kumar and David Rolph, SSRN.
- MsLods’ news round-up: law+technology, 20 July 2014
Next week in the courts
This is a busy week for the media courts with three trials taking place in London. We have already mentioned one which may be taking place in South Wales.
On 21 July 2014, a nine day libel trial in the case of Garcia v Associated Newspapers will begin before Dingemans J.
On the same day there will be a one day privacy trial in the case of NNN v Ryan before HHJ Moloney QC.
On 23 July 2014, there will be a one day trial of preliminary issues in the case of Cooke v MGN. The issues involve consideration, for the first time, of the “serious harm” threshold in section 1 of the Defamation Act 2013.
On 24 July 2014 there will an application in the case of Mitchell v News Group Newspapers.
On 25 July 2014, there will be an application in the case of Reynolds v De Hoedt.
The following reserved judgment in media law cases are outstanding:
PNM v Times Newspapers, heard 18 June 2014 (Master of the Rolls, Jackson and Vos LJJ).
Cartius v Atlantic Mobility, heard 19 June 2014 (HHJ Parkes QC)
Bewry v. Reed Elsevier UK Limited (T/A Lexisnexis), heard 7 July 2014 (Lewison, Macur and Sharp LJJ)
Flood v Times Newspapers, heard 8 July 2014 (Sharp and Macur LJJ and Sir Timothy Lloyd).
IG Index v Cloete. heard 9 July 2014, (Arden and Christopher Clarke LJJ and Barling J).
Sharma v Sharma heard 15 July 2014 (HHJ Moloney QC)