We would like to welcome all our readers back to our weekly regular round up of the media and legal news from England and around the world. Please do let us know by email or comment if there is anything we have left out or got wrong.
Phone hacking was back in the news last week. First, there was the guilty plea of former News of the World news editor, Ian Edmondson. We had a post about this on 3 October 2014. This was widely covered in the press – including the Times [£] the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph. Mr Edmondson’s former employers, News Group Newspapers, were unfortunately unable to find space for the story in the Sun.
On the same day the CPS announced that the former News of the World legal manager, Tom Crone, would face no further action over phone hacking allegations. There were reports in the Press Gazette and in the Guardian.
The jury in the “Operation Elveden” trial of Sun report Vince Soodin were unable to agree and he now faces a re-trial on a charge of conspiring to commit misconduct in public office. Mr Soodin had paid £500 to Police Sergeant James Bowes who had already pleaded guilty to the offence.
The settlement of a libel claim brought by Gerry and Kate McCann against the Sunday Times was announced. Gerry McCann attacked the “disgraceful” behaviour of the Sunday Times. In an article in the Guardian entitled “Leveson has changed nothing – the media still put “stories” before truth”. He complained that media culture had remained unchanged and condemned IPSO as a “sham regulator”.
It also emerged that the police were looking at a dossier of abuse of the McCanns posted on Twitter, Facebook and internet chat forums. Dr McCann called for an example to be made of “vile” internet trolls. The Telegraph reported that the Metropolitan Police has been passed an 80-page dossier of hundreds of tweets, Facebook posts and messages on online forums accusing Kate and Gerry McCann of being involved in their daughter’s disappearance in Portugal in 2007, and telling them they should “burn in hell”.
It was reported that lawyers acting for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have written to a photographer, Niraj Tanna of Ikon Pictures, demanding that he ceases harassing Prince George. The Society of Editors said that the foreign media was the source of the concern and that when editors “get pictures of the royals or, indeed, any celebrity they will go to great length to find about where the picture was taken”.
The most important legal news of the week was the Conservative Party’s widely condemned proposals for repeal of the Human Rights Act 1998. David Allen Green has helpfully gathered together a round up of useful links about the proposal on his Jack of Kent blog. Chris Pounder points out on the Hawktalk blog that “Conservative policy towards the Human Rights Act has serious consequences for privacy and freedom of expression”. Roy Greenslade had a post “Right rights vs Left rights – how the newspapers lined up on the ECHR”.
It is reported by the New York Times that the Hamburg data protection regulator has ordered Google to give users greater control over how online data is used. The regulator’s press release in English [pdf] can be found here.
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
On Friday 3 October 2014, there was a Statement in Open Court [pdf] in the slander case of Craggs v Harvey. This was due to be one of only two defamation trials this term.
Newspapers, Journalism and regulation
Although it closed on 8 September 2014, the Press Complaints Commission released a final posthumous adjudication on 19 September 2014. This was in the case of Claire Page v Woodely and Earley Chronicle. In the light of the PCC’s consistent failure to require a proper adherence to standards it was fitting that in this (presumably) final adjudication rejected a complaint under clause 5 of the Code despite the fact that the complainant (the mother of a deceased child) had made it clear that she had not wanted coverage of her daughter’s death.
Roy Greenslade has a post about an email from Trinity Mirror chief executive Simon Fox to staff denying that the company took an “ostrich like” approach to phone hacking.
In the Courts
On 26 September 2014, Bean J granted the Claimant’s permission to appeal in the case of Cooke v MGN and awarded the Defendant costs from the date of publication of its apology. There was a post about this on the David Price Solicitors & Advocates website, “MGN awarded costs of landmark libel claim”.
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
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that broadcaster Ray Hadley and his radio station 2GB have settled a libel claim brought by MP Ray Williams. Mr Hadley has apologised on air.
It is reported that the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees has filed a Can$500,000 defamation lawsuit against Kathleenn Smith, a local tweeter, Jason Tucker, an Ontario politician and an unidentified blogger for Internet statements about an ongoing labour strike.
A Hong Kong jury has found that the Development Secretary and Paul Chan and his wife Frieda Hui defamed Jonathan and Caitlin Lu, as well as their father, school governor Carl Lu in emails alleging cheating at school. The jury awarded damages of HK$230,000.
The Writers in Prison Committee of PEN International has expressed grave concern about the suspended sentence of 11 months and 20 days for defamation of President Erdogan imposed on the writer, journalist and publisher Erol Özkoray. The offence was found to have been committed by the reproduction in a book of anti-Erdoğan graffiti and quotes slogans and banners directed at Erdğan by the Gezi Park protesters.
It is reported that the High Court has awarded damages of 35 million shillings (£8,300) businessman Johnson Akol Omunyokol in a claim for defamation, wrongful arrest and wrongful detention against Standard Chartered Bank arising out of false allegations that he had threatened to kill a member of the bank’s staff.
The New York Post has settled a libel claim brought by two individuals who were pictured on the front page with headline the headline “Bag Men: Feds seek duo pictured at Boston Marathon.” There were report about the settlement in the Boston Globe,, the Huffington Post and on the Washington post blog.
Research and Resources
- “Celebrities, Copyright and Cybersecurity”, Derek Bambauer, Info/Law Blog, 3 October 2014.
- “Mapping Defamation Defences”, Eric Descheemaeker, Edinburgh School of Law Research Paper, SSRN.
- “Free Speech Today”, Lord Lester QC, Polish Yearbook of International Law, Vol 33 (2013), pp.129-144, SSRN.
- “Tracing the Right to be Forgotten in the Short History of Data Protection Law: The ‘New Clothes’ of an Old Right”, Gabriela Zanfir, SSRN.
Next week in the courts
On Monday 6 October 2014 judgment will be handed down by Dingemans J in the case of Garcia v Associated Newspapers (heard 21-25, 28-9 and 31 July 2014).
On the same day the trial will begin in the case of Reachlocal UK v Bennett before HHJ Parkes QC. In July 2014, Nicol J granted the third defendant’s application for relief from sanctions in this case ( EWHC 2161 (QB)).
Last week we had a preview of the cases pending before the Courts in England and Wales this coming Legal Term.
The following reserved judgment in media law cases are outstanding:
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).