The trial of former News of the World deputy editor Neil Wallis began at the Central Criminal Court this week. He is accused of conspiracy to hack voicemail messages in what may be the last Operation Elveden trial.
The court heard from prosecutor Julian Christopher QC that:
“The practice was so widespread at the News of the World that it is inconceivable that the editor above him should have been involved, and those below him should have been involved, without him also knowing about it and being involved.”
The court also heard that Wallis tried to recruit journalist Dan Evans from the Sunday Mirror, and told him: “I know you can screw phones, what else can you do?”
Martin Hickman has been producing regular (crowdfunded) reports on Byline:
- Jury Sworn In at Wallis Trial
- Wallis Spoke to Coulson on Day of Blunkett Story
- Evans: Wallis Knew I was a Hacker
- Evans: Yes I Did Drink and Drugs
- Hacking Witness: I Made Mistakes in My Evidence
- Senior Mirror Journalist ‘Personally Tasked’ Hacker
In other news, despite enlisting the exalted services of Lord Pannick QC Mirror Group Newspapers have been refused the permission to appeal against a High Court ruling which ordered it to pay record damages to a group of phone hacking victims. The application will now be renewed in the Court of Appeal.
A review of government surveillance powers has said that all requests to view journalists’ call records should now go before a judge. The move was announced by the Government as David Anderson QC delivered his Investigatory Powers Review to the Government. However, it was not stated whether journalists will have the right to argue against the disclosure of phone records.
A “rogue landlord” has been convicted of fraud after trying to sue a newspaper for defamation over its coverage of his bogus insurance claim. Mahendra Shah was sentenced at the Old Bailey after filing a claim of £810,000 for a house he owned, despite having taken out an insurance policy minutes after the property had gone up in flames. Shah had previously complained to the high court over articles in the Croydon Advertiser which described him as a “rogue landlord”, including the report of the fire.
As first discussed on Inforrm, libel cases have increased by 60 per cent since the new Defamation Act was introduced on 1 January 2014, despite predictions that it would lead to a drop in the number of cases. Cleland Thom argues in the Press Gazette that this is no surprise.
Data Protection and Data Privacy
The European Commission’s Data Protection Regulation is on its way, Hawktalk discusses what organisations can do to prepare here.
Europe’s Highest Court has delayed a decision in the Safe Harbor Case Schrems vs. Facebook. The delay may allow the U.S. and EU to conclude their negotiations regarding updating the Safe Harbor Framework before the ECJ issues an opinion that could impact the Framework.
Datonomy has its Cyber Update for the week commencing 8 June 2015.
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
There were no statements in open court last week.
Newspapers, Journalism and regulation
The Press Recognition Panel (PRP) has launched a new consultation process, marking a new phase in post-Leveson press regulation. The body will decide whether press regulators meet the recognition criteria recommended in the Leveson report. Ipso has let it be known that it will not seek recognition.
An analysis of the voting pattern among national newspaper readers has shown that the right-wing press played a significant role in the Conservative victory. Roy Greenslade shows that by contrasting the votes cast by readers at separate titles at this year’s election with those at the 2010 election it is possible to detect the impact of the Conservative press on behalf of David Cameron’s party.
Despite a climbdown from Operation Elveden, the risk of a criminal prosecution for paying public officials for stories is now higher than ever for journalists, argue David Spens QC and Tom Coke-Smyth for the Press Gazette’s Guest Blog.
Last Week in the Courts
There is was a three day trial in the case of Tao Ma v St George’s Healthcare Trust beginning before Sir David Eady beginning on 8 June 2015. Judgment was reserved.
On 9 June 2015 there was a PTR in the case of Starr v Ward before Nicol J.
As already mentioned there was a hearing on 10 and 11 June 2015 before Mann J in the Mirror phone hacking case of Gulati v MGN at which permission to appeal was refused.
On 10 June 2015 judgment was handed down by Warby J in the case of Stocker v Stocker  EWHC 1634 (QB). The case is a remarkable one involving a claim by multi-millionaire against his ex-wife ex- after she allegedly ranted to his new girlfriend about him on Facebook. She is said to have claimed that he had tried to strangle her and was a bad father. He is now seeking £150,000 in damages. It was widely reported in the press including in the Daily Mail
On 11 June 2015 there was an application in the case of Lachaux v Independent Print before Nicol J. Judgment was reserved. AOL sought to set aside an extension of time for service of particulars in a new action brought by the Claimant, while Mr Lachaux seeks consolidation of the two actions ahead of the forthcoming trial of ‘serious harm’ and Jameel abuse of process.
On 12 June 2015, there was a hearing to consider sentencing following a decision on committal in the case of QRS v Beach before Sir David Eady. Judgment was reserved. The decision on committal was handed down on 22 May 2015 ( EWHC 1489 (QB)).
1 July 2015: “Bird & Bird’s Annual Data Protection Update” Bird & Bird, 15 Fetter Lane, London
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Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
In the case of Fairfax Media Publications Pty Ltd v Bateman ( NSWCA 154) the Court of Appeal of New South Wales held, by a majority, that the so-called Hore-Lacey defence is not available in that jurisidiction. McColl JA dissented.
Australian men’s magazine Zoo Weekly has lost a libel action after it photoshopped a photo of politician Senator Sarah Hanson-Young onto a lingerie-clad model’s head. Hanson-Young sued after the article called for Hanson-Young to participate in a photo shoot in exchange for it letting “the next boatload of asylum seekers” stay at the magazine’s office.
Lawyer, broadcaster and energy-industry lover Ezra Levant has made a public apology to human-rights lawyer Richard Warman for statements made in 2008. The apology arose out of a libel actions filed by Warman against Levant, Michael Coren, Quebecor Media Inc., Sun Media Corporation and others.
A court has awarded filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici NIS 800,000 ($260,000) in damages on Sunday in a libel case against a former Israel Antiques Authority curator Joe Zias. Jacobovici had been accused by Zias of falsifying material in a documentary about the origins of Christianity.
The High Court has dismissed blogger Roy Ngerng’s bid for Heather Rogers QC to be admitted to represent him in a damages hearing after he was found guilty of defaming Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. A High Court judge also ordered to pay S$6,000 in costs for his failed bid to hire a QC.
Sweden has one of the highest proportions of Internet users in the world and, like many other countries, has a problem with anonymous online abuse. ‘Troll Hunter’ is a new reality TV show attempting to track down and confront these individuals and bring their hate speech into the public eye.
Jim Belushi has filed a defamation suit and is seeking more than $50,000 in damages against Sahar Chavoshi, general manager of The Comedy Bar. Belushi alleges that Chavoshi said Belushi was a ‘liar who engaged in fraud’ and ‘manipulated comics’, according to the suit.
A New York judge has dismissed film producer David Bergstein’s defamation lawsuit against The Hollywood Reporter. The lawsuit arose from reports stemming from the involuntary bankruptcy of his various companies.
Research and Resources
- Despite Elveden climbdown, paying public officials for stories more legally dangerous than ever, David Spens QC and Tom Coke-Smyth, Press Gazette
- Denouncing Divinity: Blasphemy, Human Rights, and the Struggle of Political Leaders to Defend Freedom of Speech in the Case of Innocence of Muslims Ancilla Iuris,(anci.ch) 2015: 1 – Article, Tom Herrenberg, SSRN.
- De implicaties van het Google Spain-arrest voor de vrijheid van meningsuiting (The Implications of the Google Spain Judgment for Freedom of Expression), NTM/NJCM-Bulletin (2015) 40/1, p. 3-19, Stefan Kulk and Frederik J. Zuiderveen Borgesius, Utrecht University – Centre for Intellectual Property Law and University of Amsterdam – Institute for Information Law (IViR), SSRN.
- An International Right to Privacy? Be Careful What You Wish For, NYU School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 15-15 Stephen Schulhofer, SSRN.
- English Courts and the ‘Internalisation’ of the European Convention of Human Rights? – between Theory and Practice  5 UK Supreme Court Annual Review, 188-222, Veronika Fikfak, University of Cambridge – Faculty of Law, SSRN.
- Data Retention in the Aftermath of Digital Rights Ireland and Seitlinger, 24(4) Irish Criminal Law Journal 105, Maria Helen Murphy, National University of Ireland, Maynooth (NUI Maynooth) – Department of Law, SSRN.
Next week in the courts
On Monday 15 June 2015 the trial in Starr v Ward will begin before Nicol J. It is estimated to last 8 days.
On Thursday 18 June 2015 there will be yet another application in the case of Otuo v The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Britain.
The following reserved judgment in media law cases are outstanding:
Pinard-Byrne v Linton, heard 22 April 2015 (Judicial Committee of the Privy Council).
Masters v Palmer, heard 5 May 2015 (HHJ Moloney QC).
Otuo v Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, heard 14 May 2015 (HHJ Moloney QC).
Ma v St George’s Healthcare Trust, heard 8-10 June 2015 (Sir David Eady)
Lachaux v Independent Independent Print, heard 11 June 2015 (Nicol J)
This Round Up was compiled by Tessa Evans, a journalist and researcher. She tweets @tessadevans