The most important media and law news of the week was the Crown Prosecution Service announcement on Friday 11 December 2015 that no further action will be taken in relation to two phone hacking investigations, Operation Weeting and Operation Golding.
The CPS has pointed out the difficulties of proving corporate charges and argued that there is insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction. It also said that Andy Coulson was not a “controlling mind” at NGN and therefore corporate criminal liability could not be attributed to the company. We covered the news in detail here. The Guardian reports that victims of Mirror phone hacking are considering applying for a review of the CPS decision.
It has been revealed in the Press Gazette that the Metropolitan Police has spent more than £40m on investigations into journalism, including £22.8m into Operation Weeting and £14.7m on Operation Elveden.
Roy Greenslade analysed the media’s response to the story, arguing that there was a clear right-left divide in the newspaper reactions, with the right wing papers supporting the conclusion of the saga and the left demanding further answers.
An editorial in the Independent argues that a Tory government freed from coalition will not want to threaten their relationship with a “generally compliant” media and that “Leveson 2” is therefore unlikely. Greenslade agrees with this analysis, arguing that the abandonment of Leveson 2 will be a political, rather than a legal decision.
In other news, the Mail on Sunday has fought and won a six-week legal battle to be able to report on Dragons’ Den star Duncan Bannatyne’s divorce papers, which show that he lied to the court in an attempt to reduce the amount he would have to pay his former wife. The judgment is available here: Associated Newspapers Ltd v Bannatyne & Ors  EWHC 3467 (Ch)
Sussex Police has published mobile phone messages that were allegedly exchanged between a senior police officer and journalists who he is accused of having “formed and maintained” relationships with. Inspector Lee Lyons is facing a public misconduct hearing next week over the allegations.
Data Protection and Data Privacy
The EU institutions have reached a deal on the Network and Information Security Directive. The Datonomy blog discusses this here.
The Panopticon blog discusses various recent European Legislation Updates, including the new Directive on the use of passenger name record data and updates on the new Cyber Security directive.
The EU has proposed new consumer rights for the return of data exchanged. The fieldfisher blog discusses these here.
The European Parliament, Council and Commission have come to an agreement on the Network and Information Security (NIS) Directive. The Dentons Privacy and Cybersecurity Law blog discusses this here.
The final text of the Network and Information Security Directive has been agreed.The fieldfisher blog discusses this, arguing that it is a a cyber and data revolution that will test many a legal team.
Freedom of Information
Transparency International UK’s Steve Goodrich considers the right to access information, suggesting that public funds should be put towards strengthening rather than weakening the Freedom of Information regime.
The Daily Mail has taken up the campaign to protect the Freedom of Information Act, condemning public sector attempts to weaken it. Public organisations including councils, universities and NHS bodies have called for the introduction of fees and the shortening of time limits on the act, in order to make it easier for them to refuse to answer questions.
Roy Greenslade approves of Paul Dacre’s decision, arguing that the FOIA has been increasingly beneficial to society.
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
There were no statements in open court this week.
Newspapers Journalism and Regulation
The Daily Telegraph has been found guilty of breaching the editors’ code of practice for the seventh time, meaning that the newspaper has fallen foul of the regulator more often than any other newspaper. In the latest instance, it was ruled that a Telegraph headline that claimed a “a gipsy camp” drove a couple to take their own lives was not supported by the evidence.
The Labour party cannot sustain itself for much longer and is on the brink of complete disintegration, but this is not the fault of Corbyn, argues Roy Greenslade.
Last week in the Courts
On 3 December 2015, HHJ Parkes QC heard the PTR in the case of Umeyor v Ibe. The trial will now begin on 11 April 2015 and is listed for 5 days.
Dingemans J was the trial judge in the libel case of Sobrinho v Impressa Publishing, which was heard on 7, 8 and 9 December 2015. Judgment was reserved.
On 7 and 8 December 2015 the trial in the case of Theedom v CSP Recruitment took place before HHJ Moloney QC. An ex tempore judgment was given on Friday 11 December 2015.
On 8 December 2015, Sir Michael Tugendhat heard an application in the case of Lachaux v Independent Print. Judgment was reserved.
On 11 December 2015, HHJ Moloney QC heard an application in the case of Anglia Research v Finders Genealogists and gave an ex tempore judgment.
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Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
Alleged Mafia boss Antonio Madafferi has lost a court fight with The Age newspaper, after a court ruled that it was reasonable for police to suspect he had put out a $200,000 hit on a man he believed was providing information to the publication.
A Queensland lawyer has lost a defamation case after being compared to a fictional lawyer. Brett Clayton Smith began legal proceedings in 2013 after being compared to “Dennis Denuto”, a lawyer in Australian film The Castle by the former husband of his daughter-in-law.
MP Clive Palmer and former Queensland premier Campbell Newman are due to go to mediation to settle a defamation dispute. Palmer began proceedings to sue Newman last year after he described Palmer during a press conference as “a guy who tried to buy … my government”.
Brendan French, a Commonwealth Bank boss, has been awarded $300,000 in a defamation payout after experiencing a ‘hellish’ stalking campaign. Justice Lucy McCallum has awarded French $300,000 damages for an internet campaign run by self-styled consumer advocate Michael Fraser, who sought to stalk French and destroy his reputation.
The editor of the Calgary Herald has defended the article at the heart of the defamation lawsuit filed by former journalist Arthur Kent. He argued that it is defensible because the facts are mainly true. An expert on journalistic ethics has also testified, arguing that the article was defensible.
The Supreme Court of Nova Scotia has declared the province’s cyberbullying law to be unconstitutional and a “colossal failure”. The law has been found to violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms’ guarantees of freedom of expression and “life, liberty and security of the person” rights. The judgment is Crouch v Snell, 2015 NSCC 340 (PDF).
A County Mayo care worker has sued RTE, Ireland’s National Television and Radio Broadcaster, after the broadcast of a TV programme concerning the Áras Attracta care home.
She is claiming damages for defamation, malicious falsehood, invasion of privacy, breach of her right to privacy and infringement of her constitutional right to her good name.
Opposition leader Simon Busuttil has initiated libel proceedings against the Labour Party. The Labour Party said in a statement Monday that he had been “caught in a serious case of fraud of public funds”, which he claims is untrue.
The High Court in Belfast has found that a series of articles published the Sunday World newspaper about Colin Fulton did not constitute harassment or breach his rights under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The articles referred to Fulton as a “UVF Thug”, a “UVF Gangster”, a “UVF godfather” as well as alleging that he was involved in a series of illegal activities.
First Minister Peter Robinson is to receive libel damages from Private Eye magazine over allegations linking him to a blocked nomination for a peerage.
The Herald newspaper has launched a campaign to reform libel law in Scotland, wanting to bring its laws into line with those in England and Wales. It warned that current legislation is having a “chilling effect on free speech” in the internet age.
The Thai government reported to be considering launching a defamation case against a former officer tasked with investigating human trafficking. Major General Paween Pongsirin says he fled for his life after he found out senior figures in the military and police were involved in the trade.
Former Chief Justice Samuel William Wako Wambuzi has sued a local tabloid for defamation. Wambuzi accuses Red Pepper of having defamed him in an article titled “Exposed! 100 most indebted personalities revealed”.
A former model has won a defamation case against a Vietnamese news website, after an article described her as a drug user and accused her of mistreating her parents. The court ruled that the news website published the one-sided story without fact checking and seeking comments.
Research and Resources
- Ms-Lods Law + tech news round-up, 9 December 2015
- Adopting a Universal Standard for Unmasking Anonymous File Sharers Brandon Wiebe, Adjunct Professor.
- Profiling in the Present and New EU Data Protection Frameworks Nielsen, P.A., Schmidt, P.K., Dyppel Weber, K. (eds.) Erhvervsretlige emne, Juridisk Institut CBS (Djøf 2015) ISBN 978-87-574-3524-5, Andrej Savin, Copenhagen Business School, Law Department.
- ‘Freedom of Expression or Privacy’: A Critical Analysis on the Ethical Behavior of Internet Broadcasting Media in Sri Lanka. 12th International Conference on Business Management (ICBM) 2015, W.D.P.S Wickramasinghe
- Beyond Citizens United, Fordham Law Review, Forthcoming, Nicholas Almendares and Catherine Hafer, Tulane University – Law School and New York University (NYU) – Wilf Family Department of Politics
- The ‘Speech Integral to Criminal Conduct’ Exception Cornell Law Review, Forthcoming, Eugene Volokh, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) – School of Law.
Next week in the courts
On Monday 14 December 2015, Dingemans J will hear an application in the case of Lokhova v Tymula.
On 17 December 2015, there will be an application in the case of Morris v Local World Ltd
On 18 December 2015, there will be an application in the case of Unnadkat v Patel & ors.
The Northern Ireland appeal in the case of CG v Facebook has been adjourned by the Court of Appeal in Belfast to a date to be fixed in 2016.
The following reserved judgments media law cases are outstanding:
Gulati v MGN, heard 20 and 21 October 2015 (Arden, Rafferty and Kitchin LJJ)
Lachaux v Independent Print, 8 December 2015 (Sir Michael Tugendhat)
Sobrinho v Impressa Publishing, heard 7 to 9 December 2015 (Dingemans J).
This Round Up was compiled by Tessa Evans, a journalist and researcher. She tweets@tessadevans