The most entertaining media legal story of the week concerns the attack by the Sun on Russell Brand and his subsequent threat to sue them for libel. We had a post on this story. The case has a number of remarkable features.
First, the allegation of “hypocrisy” against Mr Brand – based on the fact that he pays a large sum in rent to a landlord based offshore – is difficult to follow. It led to a Twitter campaign #SunLogic. Simon Kelner had a piece in the Independent entitled “Give Russell Brand a break – he’s no more a hypocrite than anyone else”.
Second, the Sun followed up its front page accusation of hypocrisy with another front page story – based on a YouGov poll it commissioned to ask questions as to whether respondents thought that Mr Brand was a hypocrite. It is difficult to think of a previous example of a newspaper commissioning an opinion poll to attack a particular individual. YouGov has not yet published the poll although it did have a poll last month showing that Mr Brand had the second highest “net negative” rating of any political celebrity (-33%, just behind Jeremy Clarkson at -34%).
There were two “Operation Elveden” criminal trials in progress last week.
First, there was the “Sun Six” trial at Kingston Crown Court – we have again had regular posts on this Martin Hickman (courtesy of Hacked Off). The trial was adjourned on Thursday 4 December 2014 as the result of juror illness.
Second, there was the Sun ‘Mobile Phone’ Trial at the Old Bailey of Sun journalist Nick Parker. This week there were closing speeches and the judge summing up, with the jury being sent out on Thursday 4 December 2014. They will resume their deliberations on Monday 8 December 2014.
A number of writers, journalists and campaigners are supporting a cross party campaign against lengthy periods of police bail, “Justice delayed, Justice denied”. The campaign is calling for police bail to be limited to 28 days. As Roy Greenslade points out, although the media spotlight on this practice has followed its use against Sun journalists, the problem is much more widespread.
The CPS is to re-examine 25 cases in which people were convicted largely on evidence supplied by Mazher Mahmood. This decision was welcomed by long time Mahmood critic Roy Greenslade in a piece entitled “Why I applaud the CPS inquiry into Mazher Mahmood’s stories”.
The Court of Appeal judgment in the case of Mahmood v BBC  EWCA Civ 1567 is now available (thank you to Benjamin Pell). The Court relied on six reasons for rejecting the application and concluded that the case was “long way” from cases where there would be a full identification of someone who had never been identified before. They refused to make an order restricting access to documents put before the court and these documents are now in the public domain.
The Datonomy blog has a useful post by Ross McKean dealing with the state of play on the draft Data Protection Regulation – it is entitled “EU DP reform – where has it got to, and what should you do now to prepare?”
The Privacy Europe Blog has a post about the Article 29 Working Party report on the “internet of things” entitled “EU: Device Fingerprinting should require consent”
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
There were no statements in open court this week.
The Daily Express has apologised to Jim Carr, the father of comedian Jimmy Carr over a piece in Vanessa Felz’s column. This is the seventh apology and settlement for defamation received by Mr Carr Senior.
Newspapers, Journalism and regulation
Roy Greenslade draws attention to the latest ABC circulation figures which show that in November 2014, daily national newspapers sold an average of 7,023,738 copies a day, a fall of just over 9% since November 2013 with only the Times bucking the trend. He had noted earlier that Times Newspapers had made a profit of £1.7m, the first in 13 years.
Last Week in the Courts
This was a busy week in the courts.
On Monday 1 December 2014, there was a CMC in the case of OPO v MLA before Simon J.
On 3 to 5 December 2014 there was an application to commit for contempt of court in the harassment case of Royal Brompton NHS Trust v Shaikh.
On 3 December 2014, the Court of Appeal (Moore-Bick, Black and Lewison LJJ) heard the appeal in JX MX v Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust. Judgment was reserved. We had a case preview about this case (note that the panel which heard the case was not the same as the panel which appears on the Case Tracker).
On the same day Stewart J handed down judgment in the privacy injunction case of AMM v News Group Newspapers  EWHC 4063 (QB). The injunction was granted on Saturday 29 November 2014. There was a directions hearing in the case on 5 December 2014 before Sir David Eady.
On the same day Master McCloud heard an application in the case of Price v Powell. The Master gave Ms Price “relief from sanctions” (having previously struck the claim out due to her failure to exchange witness statements on time). The relief was made conditional on Ms Price giving security for costs. The trial is likely to take place in the middle of 2015. There was a news item about this on the Press Gazette.
On 4 December 2014, the Court of Appeal (Sharp and Macur LJJ and Sir Timothy Lloyd) handed down judgment on Flood v Times Newspapers ( EWCA Civ 1574). The appeal, which concerned the Judge’s decision to award the costs of the action to the claimant, was dismissed.
On 3 to 5 December 2015, Sir David Eady heard the application to commit in the case of Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust & ors v Shaikh Pt Hd. Judgment was reserved.
On 5 December 2014, Sir David Eady handed down judgment in Mionis v Democratic Press ( EWHC 4104 (QB)). This was an application to enforce a clause in a settlement agreement by an injunction. This was dismissed on the ground that the clause was unenforceable. There is a 5RB case note.
On the same day Warby J handed down judgment in Ontulmus v Collett. ( EWHC 4117 (QB)) which concerned the orders for costs to be made following the settlement of the claim against the third defendant and the discontinuance of the claims against the first and second defendant.
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
African Court on Human and People’s Right
On 5 December 2014, the Court handed down judgment in the case of Konaté v. Burkina Faso. It held that imprisonment for defamation violates the right to freedom of expression. There is a post about the decision on the MLDI website
In the case of Khan v Fairfax Media  WASC 451, Le Miere J struck out a number of defamatory imputations in a libel action, but gave the plaintiff leave to replead.
In the case of Walsh v Bennetts  WASC 453, Kenneth Martin J gave the defendant leave to file a substituted defence in defamation action.
In the case of Sargant v Lobsinger 2014 ONSC 6936, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice awarded the plaintiff Can$20,000 damages for slander in respect of an allegation made at the AGM of the chamber of commerce that the plaintiff was receiving kick-backs from a third party.
It is reported that the Basic Court has begun hearing a libel case against human rights activist Vanja Calovic by former Serbian official Vladimir Popovic. The case arises out of an allegation by Ms Calovic that Mr Popovic had faked a video posted on the internet which purported to show her have sex with dogs.
The report of the Northern Ireland Law Commission on “Defamation Law in Northern Ireland” [pdf]. IBT reports that the Finance Minister has refused to guarantee that Northern Ireland’s libel laws will be changed even if the Northern Ireland Law Commission recommended such a move.
In the case of State v Motsepe [pdf], the Pretoria High Court in South Africa allowed the appeal by journalist Cecil Motsepe’s against a conviction of criminal defamation, but ruled that the crime of defamation was constitutional. There was a post about this on the Committee to Protect Journalists website.
It is reported that a Federal judge has rejected an application by conservative commentator Glenn Beck to dismiss a libel claim by Saudi student Abdulrahman Alharbi – who Mr Beck had accused of funding the Boston Marathon bombing.
Research and Resources
- Internet Defamation Law and Publication by Omission: A Multi-Jurisdictional Analysis , Ryan James Turner, University of New South Wales Law Journal, Vol 37, No.1, 2014, SSRN.
- New Tort of Intrusion Upon Seclusion and Electronic Health Records, Omar Ha-Redeye, SSRN
- The Misconceived Search for the Meaning of ‘Speech’ in Freedom of Speech, Larry Alexander, SSRN
Next week in the courts
On Monday 8 December 2014, the Court of Appeal (Master of the Rolls, Sharp and Macfarlane LJJ) will hear the defendant’s appeal in the case of Vidal-Hall v Google. We had a post on the decision of Tugendhat J at first instance ( EWHC 13 (QB)). It was announced last week that the ICO was intervening in the appeal.
On Wednesday 10 or Thursday 11 December 2014, the Court of Appeal will hear the appeal of the defendant in the case of Rufus v Elliott. The Grounds of Appeal [pdf] and Skeleton Argument [pdf] relied on by the Appellant are available on the David Price Solicitors and Advocates website.
On the same days the Court of Appeal (Master of the Rolls, Sharp and Macfarlane LJJ) will hear the appeal in Cruddas v Calvert.
On 12 December 2014 there will be an application in the case of Ames v Spa House Inc.
The following reserved judgment in media law cases are outstanding:
R (Evans) v HM Attorney-General, 24 and 25 November 2014 (UK Supreme Court)
ADA v XAA, heard 28 November 2014 (Jay J)
Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust & ors v Shaikh Pt Hd heard 3-5 December 2014 (Sir David Eady)