The legal term ends on Friday 19 December 2014 and this is our last Round Up of the year. The last month has been the busiest ever on the blog and we would like to thank all our readers. It was also a busy week in the higher courts: there were three media law cases in the Court of Appeal and one interesting decision from the Supreme Court.
First, on Monday 8 December 2014, the Master of the Rolls, Macfarlane and Sharp LJJ began hearing Vidal-Hall v Google. However, after hearing argument on one issue (is misuse of private information a tort?), the Court decided to adjourn the rest of the appeal to a date in January 2015 and to invite the ICO to make oral submissions on the important issue of whether damages for pure distress can be recovered under section 13 of the Data Protection Act 1998.
Second, on 9, 10 and 11 December 2014, Jackson, Ryder and Christopher Clarke LJJ (a court surprisingly lacking a libel specialist), heard the appeal in the case of Cruddas v Calvert. Judgment was reserved.
Third, on 10 December, 2014 McCombe and Sharp LJJ and Mitting J heard the appeal in Rufus v Elliott. Judgment was reserved.
Finally, as we noted earlier in the week, on 9 December 2014, Lady Hale and Lords Carnwath and Toulson, granted permission to appeal in the case of OPO v MLA and ordered an expedited hearing – which will take place in the week commencing 19 January 2015.
There was also considerable activity in the criminal courts.
The former News of the World features editor Jules Stenson pleaded guilty to phone-hacking but former Deputy Editor Neil Wallis denied the offence. There was also a story in the Press Gazette.
There was a sentencing hearing for a News of the World journalist (who cannot be named for legal reasons) who was convicted of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office on 5 November 2014. The journalist was given a suspended sentence of 6 months’ imprisonment. Former prison officer Scott Chapman was sentenced to three and a half years’ imprisonment and his then wife received a sentence of thirty weeks.
There were two “Operation Elveden” criminal trials in progress last week – one of which concluded.
First, on 9 December 2014, Sun reporter Nick Parker was convicted of handling stolen goods but was acquitted of aiding and abetting misconduct in public office. We had a post about this decision which was also widely covered in the press (see, for example, the BBC, the Daily Telegraph and the Guardian). Mr Parker received a suspended sentence of 3 months’ imprisonment.
Second, there was the “Sun Six” trial at Kingston Crown Court – which began on 6 October 2014 – is now drawing to a conclusion. We have again had regular posts on this Martin Hickman (courtesy of Hacked Off). On Friday the judge gave the jury legal directions and closing speeches will begin on Monday.
It was announced that the Care Quality Commission had settled a libel claim brought by its former deputy chief executive who, it had alleged, had ordered a critical memo to be deleted. The CQC agreed to pay Ms Finney £60,000 damages. There was a report in the Local Government Chronicle and on the 5RB website.
Tim Crook has an interesting piece on The Conversation website entitled “Trolls could now face Dewani libel action following grim online feeding frenzy”
There have been a number of discussions of the decision of the CJEU in the case of Ryneš v. Úřad pro ochranuosobníchúdajů, C-212/13:
- Bringing Data Protection Home? The CJEU rules on data protection law and home CCTV, EU Law Analysis.
- D-Day for the Domestic Purpose exemption and the use of CCTV installed at home, Hawktalk Blog
- CJEU Adopts a Strict Approach to the Use of CCTV, Privacy and Information Security Law Blog
- The use of the individual camera system put at the family house for the purpose of protection of the property, overlooking street – is not purely personal activity, CzechDefamationLaw
The Privacy and Information law blog has a post “You thought consent applies only to cookies?! Then guess again!”
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
There were no statements in open court this week.
Newspapers, Journalism and regulation
The Greenslade Blog has a post, “Why is News UK still employing Mazher Mahmood?”
Last Week in the Courts
As already mentioned, the Court of Appeal heard the cases of Vidal-Hall v Google, Rufus v Elliott and Cruddas v Calvert last week.
On 11 December 2014, Warby J gave judgment in the case of QRS v Beach  EWHC 4189 (QB) – setting aside judgment against the second defendant, Rick Kordowski. This claim has now settled.
On 12 December 2014 Warby J heard an application in the case of Ames v The Spamhaus Project Ltd. Judgment was reserved.
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
In the case of Barrow v Bolt  VSC 599, T Forrest J dismissed a libel action brought against the well known conservative commentator Andrew Bolt. He held that te defamatory imputations were trivial and obviously made under qualified privilege. There is a discussion of the decision on the plaintiff’s blog.
Libel proceedings issued in 2013 by ex-Parti Quebecois leader Andre Boisclair have been settled with the defendants, two former members of the legislature, apologising for statements alleging past cocaine use.
On 11 December 2014, the Supreme Court handed down judgment in R v Fearon (2014 SCC 77), holding by a majority of 4:3 that police could lawfully search mobile phones without a warrant incident to arrest. Michael Geist has a post about the case, “Supreme Court’s Privacy Streak Comes To End: Split Court Affirms Legality of Warrantless Phone Searches Incident to Arrest”. There is also a post on The Law of Privacy in Canada Blog entitled “You Had Better Lock that Cell Phone or Tablet After All!”
It is reported that the head of the tax authority has sued a senior American diplomat in Budapest for libel after the envoy said the U.S. had knowledge of corruption at the tax office.
It is reported that a court has banned the sale and distribution of the autobiography of President Olesegun Obasanjo on an application made in libel proceedings brought by Buruji Kashamu a campaign director in the president’s ruling People’s Democratic Party, The High Court ordered the inspector general of police, director-general of State Security Services (SSS) and controller general of Nigeria Customs Services to confiscate Obasanjo’s books from public vendors.
In the case of Huon v.Breaking Media a US District Court Judge has allowed a libel against the “Above the Law” blog to proceed. There is a post about the case on the Technology and Marketing Law Blog entitled “Legal Blog Faces Defamation Liability for Mischaracterizing Prior Legal Proceedings“.
It is reported that Tamara Green, who has accused Bill Cosby of sexually assaulting her in the 1970s has filed a defamation claim against him, alleging he ‘publicly branded’ her a liar through statements made by his lawyer and publicist.
Music producer Dr Luke has issued defamation proceedings against Mark Geragos an attorney who accused him of raping Lady Gaga. The singer has said that the allegations are “absolutely not true”.
Research and Resources
- Media Freedom the Cornerstone of Human Rights in South Africa [pdf] C. M. van der Bank, J Soc Sci, 2014, 41(2)
- The New Regulation Against Hate Speech in Greece: Strengths and Weaknesses, Ioanna Tourkochoriti, Council for European Studies, Reviews and Critical Commentary, SSRN
- Harris v. Quinn and the Contradictions of Compelled Speech Catherine Firsk and Margaux Poueymirou, Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review, Vol. 48, No. 2, Forthcoming, 2015, SSRN
- MsLods Round Up: Law + Technology, 7 December 2014.
Next week in the courts
After the excitement of last week we are only aware of one hearing this week, Abbas v Shah, an application on 18 December 2014.
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 heard 3-5 December 2014 (Sir David Eady)
Rufus v Elliott, heard 10 December 2014 (McCombe and Sharp LJJ and Mitting J)
Cruddas v Calvert heard, 9, 10 and 11 December 2014 (Jackson, Ryder and Christopher Clarke LJJ)
Ames & anr v The Spamhaus Project Ltd, 12 December 2014 (Warby J)
Otuo v The Watchtower Bible & Tract Society of Britain, 12 December 2014 (Sir David Eady)
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