We begin with three cases dealt with by the courts this week. First On 24 April 2015, Jeremy Baker J handed down judgment in Asghar & Mujahid v Ahmad, Ali, Bhutt and Hayat ( EWHC 1118 (QB)). The judge found that the claimants had been defamed by the Fourth Defendant, Mr Hayat, on a website and in a dossier of documents. The defence of qualified privilege was unsuccessful and, in any event, the judge found that he was actuated by malice. The Claimants were each awarded £45,000 damages.
Secondly, on 22 April 2015, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (Lords Clarke, Wilson, Sumption, Carnwath and Toulson) heard an appeal from Dominica in the case of Pinard-Byrne v Lennox Linton. The case concerns the common law Reynolds defence in defamation. The trial judge awarded the plaintiff damages in the total sum of EC$110,000 (22 March 2011 [pdf]). On appeal the Court of Appeal of the Commonwealth of Dominica (part of the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal) held that the publications were protected by Reynolds qualified privilege (25 March 2013 [pdf]). There is a report of the hearing on the 5RB website.
Thirdly, on the same date the Grand Chamber of the Court of Human Rights handed down judgment in the case of Morice v France. It held unanimously that there was a violation of Articles 6 and 10 in relation to the conviction of a lawyer for defamation of investigating judges who had been removed from the judicial investigation into the death of Bernard Borrel.
The most recent publication of PTA decisions [pdf] by the Supreme Court discloses that, on 18 March 2015, the court refused permission to appeal in the Northern Ireland case of Conway v Sunday Newspapers. It was recorded that
Permission to appeal be refused because the application relates to an interim order and, although the Court of Appeal was arguably wrong, the order was not a final order.
BBC Wales reports that it has been told by a UKIP general election candidate that she is planning to sue the party for libel and harassment.
Data Protection and Data Privacy
The Ars Technica website reports a decision of the Italian Privacy Authority concerning a complaint by a refusal by Google to remove a link. As this concerned a report on a recent judicial inquiry involving the complainant the authority rule that freedom of the press should prevail. However, it found in favour of the individual concerned in relations to “snippets”.
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
There were no statements in open court this week.
Newspapers, Journalism and regulation
The Press Gazette reports that the Sun has declined to remove or edit a controversial column about migrants written by Katie Hopkins despite a complaint to the police and more than 200,000 signing a protest petition.
The Independent reports that Rupert Murdoch berated journalists on his tabloid newspapers for not doing enough to stop Labour winning the general election and warned them that the future of the company depended on stopping Ed Miliband becoming prime minister.
Last Week in the Courts
On 20 April 2015 Warby J heard applications in Baron & ors v Collins and Baron & ors v Vines. Judgment was reserved
On 23 April 2015 Warby J heard an application in Decker v Hopcroft. Judgment was reserved.
On 23 April 2015, the Administrative Court handed down judgment in the case of Aitken v DPP ( EWHC 1079 (Admin)). The court dismissed an appeal by a former editor local newspaper editor against a criminal conviction for publishing a story which breached an anonymity order under section 39 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933. There was a report in the Press Gazette.
On 24 April 2015, Dingemans J handed down judgment in the case of His Highness Prince Moulay Hicham Ben Abdallah of Morocco v Elaph Publishing Ltd (which was heard on 30 March 2015).
On the same day, Warby J granted an interim non-disclosure order in the case of ZYT v Associated Newspapers with full reasons to be provided later.
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 April 2015, Flanagan J handed down judgment in the libel case Sierocki & Anor v Klerck & Ors (No 2) ( QSC 92). He awarded damages in the total sum of Aus$260,000 in respect of statements on the US website “ripoffreporter” by a disgruntled former business partner and client in online material suggesting he was “an adulterer, a fraud, a criminal, a liar, a conman and a sociopath”. The was an article about the decision in the Guardian.
It is reported that the businessman and politician Clive Palmer will sue his former Palmer United Party senator Glenn Lazarus for defamation after he claimed the party had considered a merger with the Liberal Party.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that McCallum J has held that former NSW deputy Premier Andrew Stoner can claim broadcaster Alan Jones implied he was a “stupid, weak and gutless person” who gave preferential treatment to mining and resources companies over his farming constituency.
In the case of Browne v. Toronto Star Newspapers Limited, 2015 ONSC 2376 the Ontario Superior Court of Justice refused a motion for security for costs brought after a 21 day trial where the judge had died after reserving judgment.
The Privacy and Data Security Law blog has a post on recent Canadian decisions by the Office of Privacy Commissioner on online behavioural advertising.
It is reported that a church tribunal has found that Father Matthew Despard who alleged in a self-published book that a “powerful gay Mafia” was behind sexual bullying in the Scottish Catholic Church liable on 21 out of 26 allegations of defamation.
The International Press Institute reports that the Slovene Association of Journalists (DNS) today launched a campaign to reform Slovenia’s defamation laws as well as criminal provisions related to the publication of classified information.
Research and Resources
- MsLods’ News Round Up: Law + Technology, 22 April 2015.
- Datonomy Weekly Cyber Update, week commencing 20 April 2015.
- The Right to Privacy and Continuous Overstepping by the Press Chenoy Ceil, SSRN.
Next week in the courts
On 28 April 2015, there will be an application in the case of Bell v. Parvizi & others.
On the same day there will be PTRs before Mann J in the cases of Hannon v NGN and Dufour v NGN.
On 29 April 2015, there will be an application in the case of Shakil v. Rahman.
On 30 April 2015, there will an application in the case of BUQ v. HRE.
On 1 May 2015 there will be applications in the cases of Starr v. Ward and Undre & anr v. London Borough of Harrow.
The following reserved judgment in media law cases are outstanding:
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)
Various Claimants v MGN, heard 9-13, 18, 24-25 March 2015 (Mann J).
Baron & ors v Collins and Baron & ors v Vines, heard 20 April 2015 (Warby J).
Pinard-Byrne v Linton, heard 22 April 2015 (Judicial Committee of the Privy Council)
Decker v Hopcroft, heard 23 April 2015 (Warby J).