The first civil phone hacking trial will begin before Mr Justice Mann on 2 March 2015 with a time estimate of 10 days. We had a Case Preview yesterday but so far the case has attracted little attention from the press.
The Sun Four trial at the Old Bailey is moving towards a conclusion. This week the Court heard evidence from Duncan Larcombe, and from former Sandhurst instructor John Hardy. The prosecution called evidence in rebuttal from the owner of an army supplies shop who said that she was not paid £4,000 in cash by Claire Hardy. The court then heard legal argument. It is likely that closing speeches will begin next week.
Meanwhile, another Operation Elveden trial has commenced at the Old Bailey: R v Tom Wells and others. One Daily Mirror journalist and three Sun journalists facing charges involving a prison officer and a police officer. All the defendants are charged with conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office. It is said that they paid thousands of pounds to prison officers for stories about Boy George.
Prison officer Mark Blake justified the stories by claiming that his employer, SERCO, had turned a blind eye to corruption. However, the former centre manager at Colnbrook immigration centre said that the articles in the Sun about “cushy” treatment of detainees were inaccurate and disrupted the running of the centre.
It is reported by the Indpendent that lawyers acting for George Galloway MP have sent letters before action to more than a dozen Tweeters who are alleged to have claimed that he is anti-semite. It is said that the letter sought legal costs of £5,000 plus VAT from recipients. The claims arose out of an appearance by Mr Galloway on the BBC’s Question Time and his subsequent threat of legal proceedings against Hadley Freeman of the Guardian over a tweet. There is also a report in the Drum.
In the wake of the Straw and Rifkind cases the Times had a piece, “When Politicians Sue for Libel” [£] – dealing with the cases of Michael Meacher, John Major, Neil Hamilton, Jeffrey Archer and Jonathan Aitken.
Our attention has been drawn to a judgment in the case of Paris v Lewis  EWHC 478 (QB)[pdf] handed down by HHJ Seys Llewellyn QC in the High Court in Cardiff. The trial is listed for 16 to 20 March 2015.
According to a report commissioned by the Belgian Data Protection Authority [pdf] Facebook’s behavioural profiling and targeted advertising practices do not meet the requirements for valid consent. There is a post about the report on the Optanon blog.
The ICO has welcomed the announcement from the DCMS that it will make it easier for action to be taken against companies making nuisance calls and sending spam texts. There was a post about this on the Panopticon Blog.
The Privacy and Information Law Blog has a Progress update on the draft EU Cybersecurity Directive.
Datonomy published its Weekly Cyber Update on 23 February 2014.
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
On Monday 23 February 2015 there was a statement in open court in Pritchard v Thompson before Warby J.
Newspapers, Journalism and regulation
On 24 February 2015, the House of Commons Culture Media and Sport Committee held a one off session dealing with complaints against the press. It heard evidence from Hannah Weller, IMPRESS and IPSO. Sir Alan Moses told MPs that the allegations made by Peter Oborne concerning commercial considerations influencing editorial would be considered by the Board and that there would be a discussion about whether the code should be changed.
At a Hacked Off Parliamentary lobby on 25 February 2015, Labour Deputy Leader Harriet Harman said that the Labour Party would have a mandate to “follow through on Leveson” if won the general election.
IPSO announced the appointment of three lay members of the Editors’ Code of Practice Committee.
Last Week in the Courts
On 25 February 2015 Warby J gave a judgment in the case of Barry v Butler ( EWHC 447 (QB)).
On 26 February 2015, Warby J heard an application in the case of YXB v TNO. Judgment was reserved.
On 27 February 2015 there was an application in the case of Sloutsker v Romanova before Warby J. Judgment was reserved.
4 March 2015: “Oxford Media Convention, IPPR” Said Business School, University of Oxford
29 April 2015 Advertising & Marketing Law Conference, IBC Legal Conferences, London
12 May 2015, IBC’s 22nd Annual Defamation and Privacy Conference, Grange City Hotel, London
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
On 17 February 2015, the Court of Appeal of New South Wales dismissed an application for permission to appeal in the case of Nationwide News Pty v Hibbert  NSWCA 13. Nationwide news failed in its bid appeal a ruling refusing to strike out three imputations pleaded by a man referred to in a story about drugs in rugby league.
On 19 February 2015, District Court Judge Judith Gibson summarily dimissed the claim in the case of Time for Monkey Enterprises v Southern Cross Austereo  NSWDC 13. The judge dismissed the action by a company director who failed properly to conduct the proceedings.
On 23 February 2015, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice handed down judgment in the long running “blogger libel” case of Baglow v Smith 2015 ONSC 1175. The claim was dismissed but the judge made no order for costs and both sides used their blogs to claim victory. On Dawg’s Blawg, the plaintiff said that the case did not amount to much. In contrast, on Free Dominion, the second and third defendants had a post entitled “6 ways Baglow v Smith helped save the Internets!”
The Novia Scotia cyberbullying law is described by the Canadian Privacy Law Blog as a “disaster” – saying “it’s time to go back to the drawing board”.
It is reported that Meni Naftali, the former manager of Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence, has issued defamation proceedings against close associates of the Prime Minister , for claiming that Naftali had been responsible for excessive spending at the residence. The Times of Israel reports that the Attorney General will investigate claims of spending abuse, but only after the election.
The High Court has ordered actress Zahida Mohamed Rafik to pay her former driver Noor Azman Azemi RM150,000 in damages, after ruling the actress had defamed him.
The former European Commissioner and Minister John Dalli is reported as saying that, despite a front page apology in the Times of Malta, his criminal and civil libel suits based on stories linking him to the Swiss leaks story would continue.
Malta Today has a report of the trial in the libel action by Energy Minister Konrad Mizzi against the Malta Independent columnist Daphe Caruana Galizia concerning a claim that he was having an extra marital affair with his communications coordinator.
On 20 February 2015 there was an important judgment in a case involving Facebook. In CG v. Facebook Ireland Ltd and Joseph McCloskey ( NIQB 11) a convicted sex offender was awarded £20,000 for misuse of private information and harassment claims brought in respect of a Facebook page designed to identify and track the whereabouts of sex offenders. We will have a case comment on this case shortly. There was a post about it on the Panopticon blog.
In the case of Simorangkir v Courtney Love Cobain the Court of Appeal of the State of California dismissed an appeal by Courtney Love seeking to have the case dismissed under California’s anti-SLAPP statute. The Court did not follow the case of Hall v. Time Warner, Inc., 153 Cal.App.4th 1337 (2007) – which concerned Marlon Brando’s will – on the basis that Ms Love did not have the public interest or following that Brando had. There was a post about the decision on the Blog Law blog.
Research and Resources
- The Right to Be Forgotten: Issuing a Voluntary Recall George Wright, SSRN
- Judges and Social Media: Disclosure as Disinfectant , Benjamin P. Cooper, SMU Science & Technology Law Review, 2014 SSRN.
- Intermediary Liability & Freedom of Expression: Recent Developments in the EU Notice & Action Initiative, Aleksandra Kuczerawy, SSRN.
- MsLods News Round Up: Law + Technology, 26 February 2015.
Next week in the courts
The Mirror Group phone hacking trial, Various Claimants v MGN, begins before Mann J on 2 March 2015.
On 2 and 3 March 2015, the Court of Appeal (Master of the Rolls, Mcfarlane and Sharp LJJ) will hear the appeal in the case of Vidal-Hall v Google (part heard from 8 December 2014)(the Case Tracker is characteristically inaccurate, showing the court as the Master of the Rolls, Elias and Sales LJJ). We had a comment on the decision at first instance in January 2014.
On 5 March 2015 there will be an application in the case of Quindell plc v Gotham City Research.
On 6 March 2015, there will be an application in the case of Coulson v Wilby
We understand that the case of Abbas v Yousuf, which was due to be tried for 2 to 3 days beginning on 2 March 2015, has settled.
The following reserved judgment in media law cases are outstanding:
R (Evans) v HM Attorney-General, heard 24 and 25 November 2014 (UK Supreme Court)
OPO v MLA, heard 19 and 20 January 2015 (UK Supreme Court)
Murray v Associated Newspapers, heard 21 January 2015 (Longmore, Ryder and Sharp LJJ)
Lachaux v Independent Print Ltd, heard 4 February 2015 (Sir David Eady).
YXB v TNO, heard 26 February 2015, (Warby J).
Sloutsker v Romanova heard 27 February 2015 (Warby J).