The last year was a relatively quiet one in the English media law courts, with only two defamation trials involving the media (and none involving the national press). The most high profile case of the year was the privacy injunction in PJS v NGN. Our case comment on the original injunction attracted a record number of visitors.
Our Table of Media Law cases records only 37 decisions of all kinds in defamation cases in 2016 (down from 56 in 2015). There were none in the Supreme Court, and only one in the Court of Appeal (although there were hearings in another 4 in which judgment is awaited in 2017).
There were 8 full defamation trials in 2016 (2015, 7) with the claimants succeeding in 3 of them, that is 38% (2015, 43%).
- Flymenow Ltd v Quick Air Jet Charter GmbH  EWHC 3197 (QB) (Warby J) – the claimant succeeded but recovered damages of only £10. We had a case comment.
- Shakil-Ur-Rahman v ARY Network Ltd  EWHC 3110 (QB) (Sir David Eady) – the claimant succeeded and recovered damages of £185,000. We had a case comment.
- Begg v BBC  EWHC 2688 (QB) – the defendant successfully defended a libel claim arising out of a television interview concerning an Imam. We had a case comment.
- Economou v De Freitas  EWHC 1853 (QB) (Warby J) – the defendant successfully defended a libel claim on the basis of “serious harm” and “public interest”. We had a case comment.
- Ghuman v Ghuman  EWHC 1783 (QB) (Dingemans J) – the defendant successfully defended a slander claim.
- Theedom v Nourish Training  EWHC 1364 (QB) (Warby J) – the defendant successfully defended a libel claim based on 124 emails. The allegations were found to be true.
- Umeyor v Ibe  EWHC 862 (QB) – a claim for slander was unsuccessful, the words complained of were not proved and no serious harm and in any event there was a defence of qualified privilege.
- Stocker v Stocker  EWHC 474 (QB) (Mitting J) – the claimant succeeded in a claim based on defamatory comments by his ex-wife which she had made in exchanges on a public part of his new girlfriend’s Facebook page. Damages of £5,000 would have been awarded (the claimant waived his right to damages).
There were three “damages only” trials
- Undre v London Borough of Harrow (No.2)  EWHC 2761 (QB) (Sir David Eady) – damages of £9,000 were awarded after the acceptance of an offer of amends.
- Barron v Vines  EWHC 1226 (QB) (Warby J) – damages were assessed in the sum of £40,000 for each claimant. We had a case comment.
- Oyston v Reed  EWHC 1067 (QB)(Langstaff J) – damages of £30,000 were awarded for defamatory online publications.
There were also a number of “preliminary issues trials”
- Bukovsky v Crown Prosecution Service  EWHC 1926 (QB) (Warby J) – preliminary issue on meaning, defendant successful, no defamatory imputation, claim struck out.
- Hiranandani-Vandrevala v Times Newspapers Ltd  EWHC 250 (QB) (Nicol J) – preliminary issue on meaning, claimant partially successful.
- Sobrinho v Impresa Publishing SA  EWHC 66 (QB) (Dingemans J) – preliminary issue on serious harm, defendant successful.
Privacy and Breach of Confidence
There were four trials involving claims for breach of confidence/misuse of private information
- TLT v Secretary of State for Home Department EWHC 2217 (QB) (Mitting J) – total breach of confidence and misuse of private information damages of £39,500 were awarded as a result of the mistaken publication online of a spreadsheet of asylum seekers, see our case comment.
- Axon v Ministry of Defence & Anor  EWHC 787 (QB) (Nicol J) – a former warship captain lost a privacy claim arising out of leaks to the Sun, see our case comment.
- Burrell v Clifford  EWHC 294 (Ch)(Spearman QC) – damages of £5,000 were awarded for unauthorised disclosure of private information, see our case comment.
There was something of a resurgence in privacy injunctions in 2016 with public judgments in 5 cases:
- ERY v Associated Newspapers  EWHC 2760 (QB) (Nicol J) – see our case comment.
- TRK & Anor v ICM  EWHC 2810 (QB) (Warby J)
- Middleton v Persons Unknown  EWHC 2354 (QB) (Mitting J) – see our case comment.
- PJS v News Group Newspapers  EWCA Civ 100 – see our case comment
- DMK v News Group Newspapers  EWHC 1646 (QB) – ee our case comment.
The PJS case had, of course, a “second round”, when the defendant sought to have the injunction set aside on the basis it had become pointless. It succeeded in the Court of Appeal  EWCA Civ 393 (see our case comment) but failed in the Supreme Court  UKSC 26. The position was summed up in the title of our case comment: “Supreme Court restores interim injunction in landmark privacy case”. The case subsequently settled ( EWHC 2770 (QB))(see our case comment).
In the Chancery Division, Mann J continues to manage both the News Group and the Mirror Group phone hacking litigation. In a judgment handed down in April 2016 ( EWHC 961 (Ch)) he permitted claimants to amend their statements of case to plead phone hacking claims against the Sun.
Conditional Fee Agreements
There were two decisions by first instance judges upholding Conditional Fee Agreements and After the Event Insurance as compatible with Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights:
- 8 Representative Claimants v MGN  EWHC 855 (Ch) (Mann J).
- Miller v Associated Newspapers  EWHC 397 (QB) (Mitting J).
In both cases the defendant was given “leapfrog” permission to appeal to the Supreme Court. These two appeals – along with that against the 2014 decision in Flood v Times Newspapers  EWCA Civ 1574 – will be heard by the Supreme Court on 24 to 26 January 2017.