On Wednesday 5 November 2014, a News of the World journalist, prison officer Scott Chapman and his ex partner Lynn Gaffney were convicted of conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office at the Old Bailey. Daily Star reporter Tom Savage was acquitted. Reporting restrictions were removed on Friday 7 November. We had a news item about this case.
The Sun appeared to doubt the legal soundness of the conviction, reporting it under the headline “Guilty for lifting the lid on Bulger killer perk” describing the payments made as a “tip fee” paid to the prison officer. There was a characteristically hard hitting Zelo Street post on the case.
The “HMRC Leak Trial” is also continuing at the Central Criminal Court – although there appears to have been no coverage at all in the mainstream media this week. We had posts dealing with the proceedings here, here and here.
Finally, there is the trial of the “Sun Six” at Kingston Crown Court. The main story of the week arising out of this trial concerned defence allegations that News International was “shopping its own staff” to the police to stave off corporate prosecution. This trial is receiving slightly more mainstream media coverage:
- The Guardian, “News International hoped to avoid charges by ‘shopping staff’, court told” (5 November)
- The Independent, “Rebekah Brooks in new email mystery: Police were not given email showing former editor of The Sun signed off all payments, court told” (5 November).
- BBC online “Sun Editor Brooks ‘signed off payment requests’” (5 November)
- Mail Online, “Murdoch empire ‘shopped staff to avoid prosecution over phone hacking and corrupt payments’” (6 November)
The “Sun journalists shopped by News Corp” story was also covered by Peter Jukes on the Fothom Blog. Curiously the Murdoch owned Times thought these stories of “shopping staff” and deleting emails were less interesting than the question of use of police resources – its story was headed “More police check bribes than murder” (6 November)
Also at the Old Bailey, the former News of the World news editor Ian Edmondson was sentenced to eight months imprisonment after finally pleading guilty to phone hacking. We had a news item on this story which was widely reported in the media.
Finally in the list of journalists before the courts there is the case of former of Sunday Mirror journalist Graham Johnson who pleaded guilty of phone hacking in 2001. Mr Johnson approached the police with a confession of his involvement.
The so-called “Fake Sheikh”, Mazher Mahmood, failed in his attempt to obtain an injunction to restrain the broadcast of a BBC Panorama documentary. However, the Attorney-Generall has written to the BBC drawing attention to the potential of the broadcast to prejudice any trial. There were reports in the Guardian and the Press Gazette. The programme is due to be broadcast this evening, 10 November 2014, at 8.30pm on BBC1.
Harry Styles of One Direction has issued libel proceedings against the Daily Star over its first edition front page story headlined “1D Harry X-rated sex pic shame” – the story was changed, in the second edition so that it had the headline “1D Harry Fury at Faked Sex Pic”
The first defendant in the case of OPO v MLA (the author) has lodged an application for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court against the controversial decision of the Court of Appeal granting an interim injunction in the tort in Wilkinson v Downton (see Dan Tench’s post here). There was a post on the RPC Privacy blog about the decision.
The Supreme Court has refused permission to appeal in two media law cases:
- First, permission to appeal was refused in the case of Miller v Associated Newspapers. We had a news report on the case and a report on the 5RB website.
- Second, permission to appeal was refused in the case of Makudi v Triesman. This is a report on the One Brick Court website.
The Field Fisher Privacy and Information Law Blog has a post about the new ISO Standard for Cloud Computing, ISO27018:2014.
The Privacy International Blog has a post by Matthew Rice and Eric King entitled Behind the curve: When will the UK stop pretending IMSI catchers don’t exist?
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
There was a Statement in Open Court in the case of Ellis v Mirror Group Newspapers. The case concerned false claims that he failed to pay money to his ex-wife for child support payments. There were reports on the Greenslade blog and in the Press Gazette.
Newspapers, Journalism and regulation
We had a post about various IPSO appointments “Press regulation déjà vu: ‘new’ Ipso and old PCC resemble each other”.
Meanwhile, IPSO has not published any decisions on complaints made against its members. It commenced work on 8 September and so far has published no decisions in two months. Its last tweet was on 6 October . The only sign of life so far has been a number of public appearances by Chairman Sir Alan Moses, most recently a speech on 9 November 2014 to the Society of Editors Conference in Southampton
The independent press regulator IMPRESS has appointed its first chair, Walter Merricks. There was a post on the Greenslade blog.
In a decision dated 28 October 2014 [pdf], the Charity Commission has refused to register a body called the Independent Press Regulation Trust whose stated aim is to provide financial assistance to IMPRESS. There was a report on the Greenslade blog.
Last Week in the Courts
On 3 November 2014, Sir Michael Tugendhat heard the case of Robinson v Kensington & Chelsea LBC. An ex tempore judgment was given setting aside a default judgment in a libel action
There was the trial of a preliminary issue as to meaning in the case of Prince Alwaleed v Forbes Magazine on 5 November 2014 before Sir Michael Tugendhat. There was a report of the hearing in the Financial Times. Judgment was reserved.
As already mentioned, on Friday 7 November 2014 there was an unsuccessful application for an interim injunction in the case of Mahmood v BBC before Sir David Eady. An ex tempore judgment was given and permission to appeal was refused.
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 4 November 2014 judgment was handed down in the case of James Phillips v Robab Pty Limited  NSWSC 1520. This was a dispute between two osteopaths. The plaintiff alleged that after he ceased working at the defendants’ practice he had been defamed on their website. The judge rejected defences of truth, contextual truth and qualified privilege. Damages of Aus$50,000 and a permanent injunction were awarded.
In the case of Chittick v Payne  NSWSC 1557 McCallum J considered issues as to meaning a claim arising out of a series of posts on Facebook. The imputation that the plaintiff was an “insane idiot” was struck out but a number of other imputations survived the defendant’s objections.
In the case of Kingsfield Holdings Pty Ltd v Sullivaan Commercial Pty Ltd ( WASC 408) Kenneth Martin J held that the plaintiffs were entitled to trial by judge and jury. The judge noted that such trials were infrequent in Western Australia.
The Canadian Privacy Law Blog has a post about the decision in McIntosh v. Legal Aid Ontario, 2014 ONSC 6136 in which damages of Can$10,000 were awarded in the tort of “intrusion on seclusion” after the defendant had obtained confidential information from the plaintiff’s file with Legal Aid Ontario.
It is reported by the National Post that Vision Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson and Councillor Geoff Meggs have brought libel proceedings against NPA mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe.
It is reported that Independent Midlothian councillor Peter de Vink is suing, Councillor Derek Milligan for libel or a report to the Standards Commission suggesting that he was abusing his power.
A Singapore judge has found that a blogger Roy Ngerng has defamed the Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Damages will be assessed at a later date. There were reports about the case in the Straits Times, the South China Morning Post, the Daily Mail and the Financial Times.
Research and Resources
- “How to write a constitutional “Revenge Porn” law”, John A Humbach, SSRN.
- “Weighing Constitutional Anchors: New York Times v Sullivan and the Misdirection of First Amendment Doctrine”, Ronald A Cass, SSRN
- “Exemplary Damages for Invasions of Privacy”, Norman Witzleb, Journal of Media Law, Vol 6, No.1, July 2014, 69-93.
Next week in the courts
On Monday 10 November 2014 there are applications in the “Plebgate” case of Mitchell v News Group, Rowland v Mitchell before Mitting J who, it appears, may be the trial judge.
On Wednesday 12 November 2014, there will be an application in the case of Mionis v Democratic Press. The background to the case appears in this report in the Times of Malta.
The following reserved judgment in media law cases are outstanding:
Flood v Times Newspapers, heard 8 July 2014 (Sharp and Macur LJJ and Sir Timothy Lloyd).
Johnson v Steele, heard 29 October 2014 (Sir David Eady).
Al Saud & anr v Forbes LLC & ors, heard 4 November 2014 (Sir Michael Tugendhat)