On Friday 15 April 2015, former News of the World editor and Downing Street head of communications Andy Coulson, pleaded not guilty to perjury at the High Court of Justiciary in Edinburgh.
Coulson is accused of lying in the 2010 perjury trial of the Scottish politician Tommy Sheridan, falsely stating that before the arrest of private investigator Glenn Mulcaire and News of the World journalist Clive Goodman, he did not know that Goodman was involved in phone-hacking. Coulson is also accused of falsely claiming to have no knowledge of payments being made to corrupt police officers by staff of the News of the World while he was editor there. The full indictment can be found here.
The prosecution told an Old Bailey jury that Sun crime reporter Anthony France paid a police officer over £22,000 for 38 stories relating to Heathrow Airport. These included information on drunken pilots, prisoners on the run, a thief who stole from toddlers in hospital and a British Airways employee with a stiletto heel “fetish”. Prosecutor Zoe Johnson QC said that France’s “corrupt” relationship with Edwards over a period of three years was damaging to the public interest, arguing: “this is not a case of whistle-blowing in a noble cause.”
Chris Bryant MP has been named the new shadow culture secretary, replacing Harriet Harman. Bryant, who is a phone-hacking victim, has been described by The Independent as the “scourge” of Rupert Murdoch. His appointment came on the same day that John Whittingdale was named by the Conservatives as the new Culture Secretary.
A collection of 27 secret memos between Prince Charles and senior government ministers has been released after the Guardian won a ten year freedom of information battle with the government. The government spent more than £400,000 on legal costs in its attempt to block the 2005 freedom of information request by the Guardian journalist Rob Evans.
The letters show the Prince of Wales making direct policy demands to the then prime minister Tony Blair and several key figures in his Labour government. These include demands for urgent action to improve equipment for troops fighting in Iraq as well as appeals on the availability of alternative herbal medicines in the UK.
Roy Greenslade criticised rival papers for failing to “congratulate” The Guardian on its win, accusing them of ignoring the paper’s role in exposing the memos.
Max Mosley has settled his dispute with Google over images from a sadomasochistic orgy he took part in. “The dispute is settled, to the satisfaction of both sides,” Mosley’s lawyer said.
Accountancy firm Grant Thornton has filed a libel countersuit against property mogul Vincent Tchenguiz. In documents filed at the High Court in London, the firm rejected allegations made in a £2.2bn damages claim and is seeking damages for libel and an injunction restraining Mr Tchenguiz from publishing defamatory comments.
Data Protection and Data Privacy
Facebook abuses European privacy law by tracking people without their consent, Belgium’s privacy watchdog has said. Internet users were encouraged to install privacy software to stop Facebook tracking them, regardless of whether they had accounts with the social media website.
The government’s policies on privacy and data protection have an “SNP twist”, according to the HawkTalk blog, who examines what can we expect with regards to data protection from the new majority Conservative Government.
The ICO has begun a review of websites and apps used by children, as part of an international project to consider privacy concerns. It will examine 50 websites and apps to look at what information they collect from children, how that is explained, and the role of parental permission.
This Internet Sweep is an initiative of the Global Privacy Enforcement Network (“GPEN”) and will be conducted by data protection authorities in 20 different countries.
Civil rights and privacy groups have set guidelines for the body cameras used by Memphis police. They have released a list of precautions to be taken to make sure body cameras are a tool of public accountability and transparency.
The Privacy Europe blog has released an update on the current status of the European general data protection regulation.
The Panopticon blog discusses the making and disclosing of CD recordings in the court system.
The Irish Times advises readers to “De-Google” their lives if they value privacy.
Datonomy has its Cyber Update for the week commencing 11 May 2015.
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
There was a Statement in Open Court in the case of Moore v Associated Newspapers. Sir Roger Moore has accepted undisclosed libel damages over claims made in the Daily Mail and Mail Online that he groped an actress during the filming of For Your Eyes Only. The 87-year-old Bond star denied making advances towards Debbie Newsome during the filming in 1981.
Newspapers, Journalism and regulation
A complaint that a newspaper failed to take care over the accuracy of a story has been rejected by IPSO. Lorna Dredger complained that the article, which appeared in the Braintree and Witham Times on 4 February, used her partner’s death in a road traffic accident to sensationalise a mundane story. The article was based on information from a local authority’s website, which later turned out to be wrong. IPSO’s complaints committee said the newspaper was entitled to rely on the accuracy of the information and had not failed to take care.
However, IPSO has ruled that the Herne Bay Gazette published misleading information in breach of the editors’ code of practice. It stated that a story accusing an 18-year-old woman of enjoying a “booze-fuelled trip” days before being imprisoned for killing a man while driving under the influence was inaccurate, as the teenager had not drunk alcohol on the trip.
Neville Thurlbeck, former chief reporter of the News of the World, has revealed how he worked as an official informant for both the police and MI5. Thurlbeck claims to have divulged 25 years of ‘Tabloid Secrets’ in his new book, including the fact that an ally of Gordon Brown tipped him off about Robin Cook’s secret affair. He also details how, long before Operation Elveden, police officers investigated allegations that he had paid a policeman for information.
Last Week in the Courts
On 14 May 2015 there was an appeal in the case of Otuo v Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, heard by HHJ Moloney QC. Judgment was reserved.
On 15 May 2015 the Court of Appeal (Longmore, Ryder and Sharp LJJ) handed down judgment in Murray v Associated Newspapers,  EWCA Civ 488. The case was heard 21 January 2015. The appellant, Associated Newspapers lost its challenge to a High Court ruling that author JK Rowling should be allowed to read a unilateral statement in open court as part of the settlement of a libel claim.
On 15 May 2015, there was an application in the case of Decoulos v Axel Springer Schweiz AG heard by Dingemans J.
We are not aware of any forthcoming media and law events.
Please let us know if there are any events you would like to be included on this list by email – firstname.lastname@example.org.
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
The Supreme Court has suspended an order by the government that called for criminal defamation cases against the media. Arvind Kejriwal initated a major controversy after asking all officers in his Delhi government to register complaints about “any news item which damages the reputation of the chief minister or the government.” The court pointed out that Kejriwal has personally challenged criminal defamation cases against him on the grounds that they encroach upon his right to freedom of speech.
Richard Cachia Caruana, Malta’s former permanent representative to the European Union, has won a libel case against Education Minister Evarist Bartolo and Kurt Farrugia, the prime minister’s spokesman. Cachia Caruana had filed a complaint accusing him of using the Secret Service against those who did not agree with him.
The Florida Superior Court has dismissed a claim by former school superintendent Romain Dallemand against the accounting firm Mauldin & Jenkins dismissed.
An associate dean at the University of Virginia has filed a $7.5 million libel lawsuit against Rolling Stone magazine, claiming he was portrayed as the “chief villain” in its now-retracted article about a gang rape on campus.
Research and Resources
- Bringing Meiklejohn to Privacy: On the Essential Complementarity of Privacy andSpeech U of Alabama Legal Studies Research Paper, Ronald J. Krotoszynski Jr, SSRN.
- Reconciling Privacy and Speech in the Era of Big Data: A Comparative Legal Analysis, U of Alabama Legal Studies Research Paper, Ronald J. Krotoszynski Jr, SSRN.
- Critiques of the Pursuit of Truth as a Justificatory Theory of Free Speech, Twana A. Hassan, University of Queensland, T.C. Beirne School of Law, SSRN.
- How CJEU’s ‘Privacy Spring’ Construed the Human Rights Shield in the Digital Age, Forthcoming in “European judicial systems as a challenge for democracy”, Intersentia, Cambridge-Antwerp-Portland, 2015, Gabriela Zanfir, SSRN.
Next week in the courts
On Tuesday 19 May 2015 there will be an PTR in the case of Starr v Ward.
On Wednesday 20 May 2015, the Supreme Court will hand down judgment in the case of OPO v MLA. The case was heard 19 and 20 January 2015
The following reserved judgment in media law cases are outstanding:
Various Claimants v MGN, heard 9-13, 18, 24-25 March 2015 (Mann J).
Pinard-Byrne v Linton, heard 22 April 2015 (Judicial Committee of the Privy Council)
Shakil-ur-Rahman v ARY Network Ltd, heard 29 April 2015 (Warby J)
Masters v Palmer, heard 5 May 2015 (HHJ Moloney QC)
Linton v Tardios, heard 6 and 7 May 2015 (Dingemans J)
Stocker v Stocker, heard 7 May 2015 (Warby J)
Ma v St George’s NHS Trust, heard 8 May 2015 (HHJ Moloney QC)
Otuo v Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, heard 14 May 2015 (HHJ Moloney QC).
This Round Up was compiled by Tessa Evans, a journalist and researcher. She tweets @tessadevans