The Sun has been relying on human rights arguments again this week. Despite its long term opposition to the Human Rights Act the newspaper argued, before the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (“IPT”), that the Metropolitan Police had infringed the rights of three of its reporters by accessing their phone records during the Plebgate incident.
A number of police officers were cross-examined at a public hearing before the Tribunal about the decision to access journalists records using RIPA, rather than the Police and Criminal Evidence Act. Judgment was reserved. It was also revealed during the hearing that a judge has granted the Metropolitan Police access to a journalist’s phone records without their knowledge since the Save Our Sources stop-gap law was passed.
In a second IPT claim this week it was disclosed that the intelligence agencies have been operating under policies that fail to protect MPs from having their communications intercepted. Officers of MI5, MI6 and GCHQ have been operating under eight different policies in the last year, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal heard this week.
Caroline Lucas, the Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion, Green Party member Jenny Jones, and George Galloway, the former MP for Bradford West, have brought the legal challenge in the IPT. They claim that GCHQ has intercepted their communications in breach of the Wilson doctrine, which was thought to prohibit the agencies from eavesdropping on MPs or members of the House of Lords. Government lawyers have conceded that the 50-year-old political convention “simply cannot work sensibly” in an age of bulk interception.
The debate over the Sun’s ‘Royal Heilnesses’ front page continued this week, giving rise to interesting and difficult issues concerning privacy, public interest and freedom of information. We had a post about the issues here. The Independent drew attention to archive film showing a Nazi flag and salutes at Ibrox in 1936. The Herald had a thoughtful essay by Trevor Royle entitled Ugly truth about the royals’ flirtation with Nazism.
In further parliamentary news, MPs and Peers are no longer able to waive parliamentary privilege for the purposes of defamation proceedings. The new law came into force with the repeal of section 13 of the Defamation Act 1996.
The Sunday Times is facing a libel trial in an action brought by former Conservative MP Tim Yeo over a lobbying sting. Yeo is suing over articles published in The Sunday Times in June 2013, in which journalists from the paper met Yeo for lunch and posed as representatives of an Asian solar energy company. The trial is likely to take place in October 2015 with a time estimate of 7 days.
The solicitor engaged by News International to examine emails for evidence that staff knew about phone-hacking has been fined £20,000 for unprofessional behaviour. Lawrence Abramson admitted that he had failed to look at “toxic” emails which appeared to show evidence of illegal activity. He was also ordered to pay £15,000 in costs.
Former Number 10 spin doctor Andy Coulson has been ordered to pay £150,000 towards the costs of the phone hacking trial after being found guilty of being involved in hacking phones while editor at the News of the World.
A video showing Chelsea Football Club fans racially abusing and pushing a black commuter in Paris has been released to the media following an application by journalists. The footage shows Paris commuter Souleymane Sylla being shoved off a train to the chants of “we’re racist, we’re racist, and that’s the way we like it”
The trial in the case of Brand v Berki has been listed for 30 November 2015, with a time estimate of 4-5 days. There will be a PTR on 28 November 2015.
The trial in the case of Stocker v Stocker has been listed for 29 February 2016, with a time estimate of 7 days. There will be a PTR on 21 January 2016.
Finally, it has been announced that four new Lords Justices of Appeal will be appointed this autumn – Mr Justice Hamblen, Mr Justice Lindblom, Mr Justice (David) Richards and Mr Justice Simon.
Data Protection and Data Privacy
Does someone who pocket dials a contact have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the content of the phone call? The Washington Post discusses the matter here.
The Panopticon blog has interesting posts on the new threats to the Information Tribunal, as well as Facebook, child protection and outsourced monitoring.
The Datonomy Blog has its cyber update for the week commencing 20 July 2015.
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
There was a Statement in Open Court [pdf] on 23 July 2015 before HHJ Moloney QC in the case of Cosio-Pascal v Feinstein (which had been listed to be tried this week).
Newspapers, Journalism and regulation
Police and prosecutors were wrong to treat a journalist who exposed a drug-taking doctor as a ‘voyeurism’ suspect, the Crown prosecution Service has said. Such cases should be referred to the CPS Special Crime Central Casework Division, said CPS chief executive Peter Lewis in a letter to the Mail on Sunday.
The Times is more right wing than the Conservative government, despite its reputation for balance, according to Adam Barnett writing on Byline.
Byline also has a piece by Peter Jukes on the Daniel Morgan murder and the News of the World archives.
The Journlaw blog has an interesting piece on the reliability of world press freedom indices.
Last Week in the Courts
On 20 and 21 July 2015, there was a trial of the preliminary issue as to “serious harm” in the cases of Lachaux v Independent Print, Lachaux v Evening Standard and Lachaux v AOL (UK) Ltd before Warby J. Judgment was reserved.
On 22 July 2015, Warby J handed down judgment following the PTR in the case of Yeo v Times Newspapers  EWHC 2132 (QB). As already mentioned, the trial will take place next term, with a time estimate of 7 days.
On 23 July 2015, Edis J handed down judgment in the harassment case of Cheshire West and Chester Council v Pickthall  EWHC 2141 (QB). There was a 5RB case report.
On the same day HHJ Moloney QC head an application in the case of Howell v Airbnb UK Ltd and gave an ex tempore judgment.
On 23 and 24 July 2015 HHJ Moloney QC head a harassment case, Ware v McAllister. Judgment was reserved
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 most commented decision of the week concerned costs. In the case of Hockey v Fairfax Media Publications Pty Limited (No 2) ( FCA 750) White J ordered the Fairfax to pay only 15% of Treasurer Joe Hockey’s costs. Mr Hockey says he has “no regrets” over his decision to take Fairfax Media to court which, despite a partial win, has potentially cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars. The case demonstrates the “costs and risks” of defamation litigation, argues The Sydney Morning Herald.
Attempts by an Australian researcher to hold Google responsible for defamatory posts in the Australian Supreme Court are misguided, according to website techdirt. Janice Duffy has pursued the claim for six years, after being dismissed from her job at SA Health due to claims on the ‘Ripoff Reports’ website.
The Deputy Prime Minister Gaspar Vega has launched a libel case against two parties this week. Vega is suing Ramon Cervantes Junior, his political opponent in Orange Walk North, for slandering him and causing damage to his reputation by airing a defamatory recording. He is also suing Fiesta FM, a radio station.
In the case of Kent v Postmedia Network Inc, 2015 ABQB 461 the Court entered summary judgment dismissing the personal claims against two executives of the company which owns the first defendant, the National Post. The action against the first defendant is set down for trial on 16 November 2015.
Ireland’s Independent Newspapers’ group is to challenge Irish defamation laws at the European Court of Human Rights. The case arose after the Irish high court jury awarded communications consultant Monica Leech €1.87m (£1.3m). The newspaper company claims that such large libel awards have a “serious chilling effect” on freedom of expression.
The Supreme Court has upheld a one-year prison term imposed on a Pheu Thai Party spokesman and a former party MP for defaming former Constitutional Court president Wasan Soypisudh.
A Haiti orphanage founder and a U.S. charity have been awarded more than $14 million combined in damages, after a Maine activist who publicised sexual abuse allegations against them was found guilty of defamation.
WWE wrestlers CM Punk and Colt Cabana are facing a $1 million defamation suit. The wrestlers accused ringside doctor Christopher Amann of being responsible for Punk’s serious staph infection.
An attempt by MISA-Zimbabwe and four others to have criminal defamation declared unconstitutional in terms of the new constitution has been postponed to an unspecified date. The Attorney-General and the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs are arguing for the retention of criminal defamation.
Research and Resources
- MsLods Weekly Round news up, law and technology (25 July).
- Data Control and Digital Regulatory Space(s): Towards a New European Approach. Internet Policy Review, Journal on Internet Regulation, Vol. 4, Issue 2, Roxana Radu and Jean-Marie Chenou, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies and University of Lausanne
- Waldron, Responsibility-Rights, and Hate Speech, 43 Arizona State Law Journal 1201 (2011), Northwestern Public Law Research Paper No. 15-40. Andrew Koppelman, Northwestern University School of Law
- The Data Privacy blog discusses whether there is a constitutional right to informational privacy here.
- The Farrer & co. blog discusses whether, in the light of the Freddie Starr and Andrew Mitchell libel disasters, it is always worth suing to protect your reputation.
Next week in the courts
On 28 July 2015, there will be an application in the case of Umayer v Nwalcamma.
On 29 July 2015, there will be applications in the cases of Tardios & anr v Linton, Karpov v Browder & Ors and BUQ v HRE.
On 30 July 2015 there will be an application in the case of McGrath & anr v Bedford (adjourned from 22 July).
The following reserved judgment in media law cases are outstanding:
Pinard-Byrne v Linton, heard 22 April 2015 (Judicial Committee of the Privy Council).
Rahman v ARY Network Ltd, heard 1, 2 and 6 July 2015 (Haddon-Cave J).
Colenso-Dunne v ICO heard 13 July 2015 (Judge Wikeley)
XYZ v Khan, heard 15 July 2015 (HHJ Moloney QC)
Ware v McAllister, heard on 23 and 24 July 2015 (HHJ Moloney QC)
This Round Up was compiled by Tessa Evans, a journalist and researcher. She tweets @tessadevans