On 9 December 2016, the Chancellor, Sir Geoffrey Vos, granted a contra mundum injunction in the case of A & B v Persons Unknown. The purpose of the injunction was to protect the new identities of two boys who were convicted of a “sadistic attack” in Edlington, near Doncaster in 2009 when they were 10 and 11. They have now been given life-long anonymity.
There have been very few such orders applying to the identification of adults. The Chancellor will give full reasons for the decision at a later date. There were reports of the hearing on the BBC website and in the Daily Telegraph.
The Article 50 “Brexit case” – the most publicised court hearing of the year – took place in the UK Supreme Court on Monday 5 to Thursday 8 December 2016. It attracted an active betting market, a large volume of tweets and endless speculation about the views of the justices (based on little more than the odd probing question or facial expression). The Daily Telegraph political correspondent relying on “sources”, predicted a 7:4 pro-Remain decision with the same sources having briefed the Express and the Daily Mail.
Meanwhile, a YouGov poll shows that only 11% of the public trust journalists at newspapers like the Express and the Mail to tell the truth. The same poll showed that only 3% trust the press to regulate itself.
It has been alleged in High Court that James Murdoch was personally involved in authorising the deletion of emails at News International in early 2010 when the phone-hacking scandal was taking off. The accusations were made by David Sherborne, Counsel for 17 claimants suing News UK. Zelo Street has commented on the limited reporting of this in the press.
Five years after his last attempt failed as a result of the phone hacking scandal, Rupert Murdoch is again seeking to take full control of satellite broadcaster Sky. This is has not been much discussed in the press. Hacked Off issued a statement and the former Chairman of the BBC has challenged Theresa May to resist this new bid. The Business Secretary must decide whether to refer the bid to Ofcom. Zelo Street has a post the bid “Murdoch And Sky – Battle Lines Drawn”.
Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky’s trial for possession of child pornography will begin next week. The CPS press release about this prosecution was the subject of an unsuccessful libel claim (see the Inforrm post about the case).
A doctor named in a test case over the exaggeration of medical evidence in whiplash injuries is to sue an insurer for defamation. Dr Grace Kerali is preparing an action against insurer Ageas after a press release said she had been ‘found guilty of exaggerating medical evidence’.
Social Media Law Bulletin has examined the impact of ‘fake news stories’ published on social media, and steps companies can take to combat this problem.
Data Protection and Data Privacy
Google has said that it won’t give into French government demands that it remove content from its search engine in “right to be forgotten” cases in countries other than France.
The Information Commissioner has reopened the file on construction industry blackmailing after fears that the malpractice is still taking place.
An ICO investigation has revealed how the RSPCA and the British Heart Foundation have secretly screened millions of donors so that they could be targeted for more money. Both charities have been fined.
Mar España, the Head of the Spanish Data Protection Authority, has announced that a draft bill to reform the current Spanish Data Protection Act will be submitted in February 2017.
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
There were no statements in open court read in the last week.
Newspapers Journalism and Regulation
On 6 December 2016, Sir Vince Cable gave the Fourth Annual “Leveson Lecture”, organised by Hacked Off.
A report compiled by Freedom House has said that press freedom has declined to its lowest point in 12 years, and has drawn attention to the failings of European powers. ‘Freedom of the Press 2016’ has examined the impact that the threat of terrorism has had on press freedom in many European countries and found that journalists face pressure from terrorist groups as well as their own governments efforts to fight terrorism in the form of increased surveillance and curbs on reporting about the police.
The Guardian has published an extract from journalist and Professor Tim Crook’s forthcoming book ‘Lost for words: how can journalism survive the decline of print?’ which discusses how the loss of newsprint ‘threatens our democracy and liberty.’
Roy Greenslade in the Guardian has looked at the Daily Mail’s ‘battle’ with judges, and how despite the fact that the paper is read by only 5% of the UK population, it exercises a disproportionate influence over the country.
Last week in the Courts
On 5 December 2016, Elisabeth Laing J heard an application in the case of Bains v DNT. The Court was told that a spy working for K2 intelligence infiltrated the campaign to ban asbestos. K2 was ordered to identify its client. The Guardian has a report on the case which was adjourned to January 2017.
On the same day there was be an application for an adjournment in the case of Lokhova v Longmuir before Warby J which was dismissed. There were further applications on 7 and on 8 December 2016.
On 6 and 7 December 2016 there was a trial in the case of Flymenow Ltd v Quick Air Jet Charter GmbH. Judgment was reserved.
As already mentioned, on 9 December 2016, there was an application for a contra mundum injunction in the case of A & B v Persons Unknown.
24 March 2017, the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom conference on Media Freedom in Strasbourg, entitled: “Promoting dialogue between the ECtHR and the media freedom community”
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
Fairfax Media and the ABC have won a defamation case brought against them by a former National Australia Bank financial planner, after he agreed to settle the case and pay $200,000 in legal costs.
The New South Wales government has called for national laws to allow people to sue for damages for serious invasions of privacy, as it pursues separate state-based reforms to criminalise revenge porn.
The Supreme Court of Canada has heard arguments in Google v. Equustek Solutions, a case which has significant implications for internet jurisdiction and online freedom of speech. We had case comments on the first instance decision and the first tier appeal.
In the case of Platnwick v Bent 2016 ONSC 7340, S F Dunphy J dismissed a libel claim brought by a doctor against a lawyer who had emailed other lawyers warning that he altered medical reports on victims of car accidents. The judge ruled that Dr. Howard Platnick likely misrepresented the views of specialists so it was easier for an insurance company to deny a victim benefits after the accident. Justice Sean Dunphy wrote that there was “public interest” in not stifling debate about reports from medical experts.
The Sunday World has appealed a High Court jury’s award of €85,000 for defamation to former English Premiership footballer David Speedie.
Margaret Harkema, a dog and horse breeder, has received a settlement and apology from TV3 after a series of programmes broadcast about her.
Former Conservative party leader Colin Craig has won his bid for an upcoming defamation case to be heard by a judge alone, after it was ruled too complex to be heard by a jury. The case includes allegations against Craig of financial and electoral fraud.
Northern Ireland property developer Paddy Kearney has sued former Sinn Féin Assembly member Daithi McKay after claiming he was involved in a conspiracy to damage his reputation.
Scottish Green Party MSP Andy Wightman has been sued for defamation with £750,000 damages sought, and has stated on his blog that he will fight the case “to the utmost.”
A defamation claim by Manchester United footballer Zlatan Ibrahimovic again Swedish doctor Ulk Karlsson arising out accusations of doping will be heard on 19 December 2016.
Rolling Stone magazine has urged judges to overturn the libel verdict against them over fabricated story about University of Virginia rape.
Research and Resources
- Making News: Balancing Newsworthiness and Privacy in the Age of Algorithms Erin C. Carroll, Georgetown University Law Center.
- Privacy-Related Crimes in Italian Law, Tilburg Law School Research Paper, Bert-Jaap Koops, Tilburg University – Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology, and Society (TILT).
- Preliminary Findings on Online Hate Speech and the Law in India, Berkman Klein Center Research Publication No. 2016-19, Chinmayi Arun and Nakul Nayak, National Law University Delhi and National Law University Jodhpur (NLUJ)
- Anti-social media: CPS Guidance on cases involving communications sent via social media, Athelstane Aamodt, New Law Journal
Next Week in the Courts
On 12 December 2016 there will be a trial in the case of Holyoake v Candy before Warby J.
On the same day there will be an application in the harassment case of Lisle-Mainwaring v Associated Newspapers before HHJ Moloney QC.
On 15 December 2016 there will be an application in the case of Hourani v Thompson.
On 15 and 16 December 2016, there will be a public hearing of a preliminary issue in the Investigatory Powers Tribunal in the case of Dias v Chief Constable of Cleveland, a case concerning access to journalists’ communications data under RIPA.
The following reserved judgments in media law cases are outstanding:
CG v Facebook Ireland Limited, heard 4 and 5 April 2016 (Morgan LCJ, Gillen and Weatherup LJJ)(Northern Ireland Court of Appeal).
Mionis v Democratic Press heard 27 October 2016 (Gloster, Sharp and Lindblom LJJ).
Otuo v Watchtower Bible and Tract Society 8 November 2016 (Chancellor, Gloster and Sharp LJJ).
Lisle-Mainwaring v Associated Newspapers heard 11 November 2016 (HHJ Parkes QC).
Optical Express v Associated Newspapers Ltd, heard 16 November 2016 (Nicola Davies J). [Updated]
Lachaux v Independent Print. heard 29 and 30 November and 1 December 2016 the Court of Appeal (Macfarlane, Davis and Sharp LJJ).
His Highness Prince Moulay Hicham Ben Abdullah Al Alaoui of Morocco v Elaph Publish Limited, heard 30 November 2016 (Patten, King and Simon LJJ).
Flymenow Ltd v Quick Air Jet Charter GmbH, heard 6 and 7 December 2016 (Warby J).
A & B v Persons Unknown. heard 9 December 2016 (The Chancellor)
This post was compiled by Georgia Tomlinson who is a researcher.