On Monday 5 October 2020, there was a hearing before Mann J in the long running Mirror Phone Hacking Litigation. The judge heard claims that the Mirror Group Newspapers put private investigators on senior High Court media law judges “who granted anonymity injunctions in privacy proceedings”.
In a witness statement from the lead solicitor it was said that recent disclosure by MGN of private investigators’ invoices revealed the publisher had targeted “High Court judges involved in high-profile privacy injunction proceedings and Court of Appeal judges”. MGN has yet to plead a response to the allegations. There was a piece on Byline Investigates.
A US news agency, X17, has apologised to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex after drones were used to take pictures of their son Archie. The agency agreed to a permanent injunction and reimbursement of a portion of legal fees.
Hold the Front Page has a column “Is calling out the ‘covidiots’ worth the legal risk?” by Sam Brookman.
The Press Gazette had a piece “Law Commission review of police powers to seize journalistic material ‘extremely worrying’”.
Drag Race UK star Crystal is suing the actor Laurence Fox. In a statement on Twitter, Crystal said she “will not stand for homophobic defamation”. The Drag Race UK star claims Mr Fox made comments towards her on Twitter that amount to defamation. The BBC had a piece.
The Law Society Gazette had a piece “Legal aid solicitors ‘threatened’ after Mail on Sunday article”.
The right wing think tank, the Centre for Policy Studies, has released a report Safety without Censorship: A better way to tackle online harms [pdf] suggesting that online harms legislation will seriously undermine freedom of expression.
As usual, updates on the Coronavirus guidance can be found on the Courts and Tribunal Judiciary.
Internet and Social Media
The Guardian had a piece “Facebook removes hundreds of fake profiles tied to pro-Trump group”.
On 7 October 2020, Facebook announced significant changes to its advertising and misinformation policies, saying it will stop running political ads in the United States after polls close on 3 November for an undetermined period of time.
Data Privacy and Data Protection
Studios MG Ltd, a London-based software consultancy, tried to exploit the public health emergency by sending up to 9,000 unlawful marketing emails to people without their permission. The emails were sent on 30 April in the midst of the pandemic.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has published the outcome of a compulsory audit of the Department for Education DFE carried out in February 2020.
The audit found that data protection was not being prioritised and this had severely impacted the DfE’s ability to comply with the UK’s data protection laws. A total of 139 recommendations for improvement were found, with over 60% classified as urgent or high priority.
Forbes had a piece “U.K.’s Department For Education Broke GDPR Data Protection Laws”.
On 6 October the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) confirmed that “EU law precludes national legislation requiring a provider of electronic communications services to carry out the general and indiscriminate transmission or retention of traffic data and location data for the purpose of combating crime in general or of safeguarding national security’. The court added that the retention of users’ phone and internet data can only be allowed when governments face a “serious threat to national security”.
Observer Research Foundation had a piece “Modern democracy: Data, surveillance creep and more authoritarian regimes?”.
Newspapers Journalism and Regulation
On 9 October 2020 Hacked Off published a new report, “False newspaper stories are being shared as propaganda by neo-Nazis and white supremacists“. The report exposes the dissemination of false stories from newspapers.
IPSO has published a number of rulings and resolutions statements since our last Round Up:
- 11372-20 Various v Telegraph.co.uk, 1 Accuracy (2019), No breach – after investigation
- 09479-20 Nulty v Daily Express, 1 Accuracy (2019), Breach – sanction: publication of correction
- 00544-20 Ahmed v The Bolton News, 1 Accuracy (2019), 2 Privacy (2019), 3 Harassment (2019), No breach – after investigation
- 09542-19, 09141-19 Bell v The Press (York), 1 Accuracy (2019), 2 Privacy (2019), 6 Children (2019), 9 Reporting of crime (2019), Breach – sanction: action as offered by publication
Last Week in the Courts
On 5 October 2020 Nicklin J heard an application in the case of Ward v Associated Newspapers. Judgment was reserved.
As already mentioned, on the same day there was a CMC in the case of Various Claimants v MGN Ltd before Mann J.
There was a statement in open court in the case of Michael Turner v MGN Ltd before the same judge.
On 6, 7 and 8 October 2020 there was a trial in the libel action of Onwude v Dyer before HHJ Parkes QC. The claim concerns a publication in the British Medical Journal on 22 December 2016. The Claim Form and Particulars of Claim are available on Lawtel [£] Judgment was reserved
On 6 October 2020 there was a Costs Management Hearing in the Mirror Phone Hacking Litigation.
On 8 October 2020 Nicklin J handed down judgment in Oliver v Shaikh  EWHC 2658 (QB),addressing the issue of penalty for contempt of court and committing the defendant to prison for a period of 16 months. On 24 August 2020 the Defendant was found in contempt of court after ruling that he was the webmaster for a website called ‘Judges Behaving Badly’ which contained a vast amount of abusive and harassing material directed at a circuit judge and an additional judge of the administrative appeals chamber of the upper tribunal. Shaikh had been a litigant in proceedings before one of the judges in the ACC in 2014 but since 2016 had harassed the judge and his family causing them serious alarm and distress. The issue of penalty for contempt of court was adjourned to the October hearing, at which Shaikh was not present and not represented. The court heard that six of the offending websites subject to a previous order were still available. The Judges Behaving Badly website was still online, and indeed 26 further entries had been posted since the hearing in August. Nicklin J found that “the defendant clearly considers that he is above the law; that he does not need to comply with orders of the court. He even appears to enjoy his defiance.” The Law Society Gazette had a piece.
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
The case of Kocwa v Twitter Inc  QDC 252 concerned an application for an interlocutory injunction against Twitter ordering it to remove defamatory material. The application was dismissed.
The Guardian has a report on the libel case of Chak Wing v ABC which is being heard in the Federal Court. The plaintiff alleges that a broadcast and accompanying article defamed him including by suggesting that he was a spy who had betrayed Australia to serve the interests of a foreign power, China.
The Japan Times had a piece “Courts struggling to define what constitutes defamation in social media”.
The Times of Malta reports that, last week, former minister Konrad Mizzi lost three libel cases to Simon Busuttil, Beppe Fenech Adami and George Pullicino and won a fourth which he had filed against Nationalist Party newspaper In-Nazzjon.
The same newspaper reports that fiery exchanges forced a magistrate to briefly halt a sitting which heard libel proceedings instituted by Education Minister Owen Bonnici against Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi.
Judgment was handed down in Fourth Estate Holdings (2012) Limited v Joyce  NZCA 479 . NBR’s publisher has successfully appealed a High Court decision that it defamed former Finance Minister Steven Joyce. Joyce had been awarded $269,000 in solicitor and client costs after successfully suing Fourth Estate Holdings (2012) Limited and its owner Todd Scott for defamation. The former National MP did not seek damages in the proceeding, launched over a 2018 column. Joyce had originally sued the writer of the column, political commentator Matthew Hooton, but Hooton settled the dispute by paying Joyce’s costs at the time of $5000. Nzherald had a piece.
The Guardian reports on a campaign to enshrine the right to lifelong anonymity for complainants in rape cases. The right is well established in England but does not form part of the law in Scotland.
Singapore’s prime minister testified in court in his defamation case against a blogger who shared an online article linking him to Malaysia’s 1MBD money-laundering scandal. Reuters had a piece. The Straits Times reports that the case was subsequently adjourned after the defendant indicated that he would not be giving evidence.
The Constitutional Court recently heard arguments in the drawn-out legal battle that has followed in the wake of a homophobic article written by Jon Qwelane in 2008. The case concerns the constitutionality of the the definition of hate speech in section 10 of the Equality Act.
A hotel in Thailand has agreed to drop charges against an American guest who faced up to five years in jail for posting negative reviews – as long as he issues a public apology for his comments. The Guardian had a piece.
The writer who accused Donald Trump of raping her in a Manhattan department store a quarter century ago argued that he cannot hide behind his job as U.S. president to escape as a defendant from her defamation lawsuit. In a Monday night filing in Manhattan federal court, lawyers for E. Jean Carroll urged a judge to reject the Department of Justice’s bid to replace Trump’s private legal team and substitute the government as a defendant, with taxpayers footing the bill for costs and any damages. Reuters had a piece.
Research and Resources
- Digital Civil Liberties and the Translation Problem, Oxford Handbook of Criminal Process (2019), Michael Washington, Washington University School of Law; The Cordell Institute for Policy in Medicine & Law at Washington University in St. Louis, Neil M. Richards, Washington University School of Law; Yale Information Society Project; Stanford Center for Internet and Society
- Airline Commercial Use of EU Personal Data in the Context of the GDPR, British Airways and Schrems II, 19(2) Colorado Technology Law Journal (Forthcoming, 2021), W. Gregory Voss, Toulouse Business School.
- Consent to the Processing of Personal Data: A Legal and Behavioral Analysis Insights the Effectiveness of Data Protection Law, European Journal of Privacy Law & Technologies, 2018, Lucilla Gatt, Suor Orsola Benincasa University of Naples, roberto montanari, Università degli Studi Suor Orsola Benincasa, Ilaria Amelia Caggiano, Suor Orsola Benincasa University of Naples.
- Protect Privacy When Contact Tracing, Cato Institute, Pandemics and Policy 2020, Julian Sanchez, Cato Institute, Matthew Feeney, Independent
Next Week in the Courts
On 12 October 2020 there is a CMC in MTVIL, the phone hacking litigation against News Group Newspapers, Various Claimants v News Group Newspapers. There is also a statement in open court in the case of Michael Turner v News Group Newspapers Limited.
On 13 October 2020 there will a statement in open court in the case of Warnes v Forge before Warby J. The judgment on meaning in this case can be found here  EWHC 1496 (QB).
On 14 and 15 October 2020 Saini J will hear an application to set aside service out in the case of Qatar Airways v Middle East News.
On 15 October 2020 the Court of Appeal (Moylan, Singh and Popplewell LJJ) will hear the appeal in the “bitcoin” case of Wright v Granath.
The following reserved judgments after public hearing in media law cases are outstanding:
Depp v News Group Newspapers, heard 7 to 10,13 to 17, 20 to 24 27 and 28 July 2020 (Nicol J)
Gubarev v Orbis Business Intelligence, heard 20 to 24 July 2020 (Warby J)
Nwakamma v Umeyor, heard 13 to 16 July 2020 (HHJ Lewis)
Ward v Associated Newspapers, heard 5 October 2020 (Nicklin J)
Onwude v Dyer, heard 6-8 October 2020 (HHJ Parkes QC)
Please let us know if there are other reserved judgments which we should be listing.
This Round Up was compiled by Nataly Tedone who is a media and entertainment paralegal.