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Law and Media Round Up – 30 November 2020

On Friday 27 November 2020, at the conclusion of a Case Management Conference in the Mirror Group phone hacking litigation the managing judge, Mr Justice Mann, announced that he would be stepping down from that role after 7 years.

He thanked solicitors and counsel and said that he had had a “very interesting ride” and was “faintly sorry” to leave it behind.  He invited the parties to prepare a “primer” for the incoming judge to provide the background as to all the important features and what has happened.

Mr Justice Mann took over as managing judge from Mr Justice Vos in late 2013.  Since that date he has given a number of pathbreaking phone hacking judgments, perhaps most notably Gulati v MGN [2015] EWHC 1482 (Ch).   He has also given several other important privacy judgments, including Sir Cliff Richard v BBC [2019] Ch 169.  Mr Justice Mann will be required to retire from the High Court Bench when he reaches the obligatory age of judicial retirement (70) on 21 May 2021.

On 25 November 2020 Mr Justice Nicol refused permission to appeal in the case of Johnny Depp v NGN and made an order for a payment on account of costs in the sum of £630,000.  There was a report in the Guardian.

A local news website in Kent (KM Media Group) has apologised in court to the ex-husband of Katie Price over an article that wrongly gave the impression he had hacked into her phone. Reid  sued the paper for defamation but has now settled the claim after receiving an apology in open court, the publisher also agreed to pay Reid damages and costs. The Press Gazette had a piece.

Investigative website Open Democracy uncovered details of the Cabinet Office during  months of research for a report on the state of Freedom of Information. It said the operation meant the Government was “effectively centralising control” within the office over “what information is released to the public”. The ICO ruled in July that the Cabinet Office should hand over copies of the Clearing House’s lists of journalists and the advice given out by the unit to other departments.  But the Cabinet Office is appealing the second part of this decision and Open Democracy has now appointed law firm Leigh Day to go to an information tribunal.  Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary of the National Union of Journalists, dubbed the unit “positively Orwellian”.  The Press Gazette had a piece. There was also a piece on the Society of Editors’ website.

The Guardian had a piece “Intelligence firm Black Cube ordered to pay £350,000 to Israeli TV show”.  This was an interim costs payment after Black Cube discontinued its libel claim against the Israeli broadcaster, Keshet Broadcasting Limited.

On 26 November Bindmans issued a statement on their website on the libel claim against Carole Cadwalladr, that

“following clarification of the judgment in relation to the one remaining allegation, Carole has now withdrawn her truth defence, but, contrary to some reporting, has not made any admissions and stands by her public interest reporting. She will continue to defend the claim and we anticipate that the case will be heard at trial next year.”

A group of politicians have assembled to reform online safety teaching in schools and teach children how to spot misinformation online. The initiative comes as only half of teachers have heard of the Government’s guidance to keep children safe, according to newly released research.

An All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Media Literacy will commission an independent inquiry into media literacy in schools, led by former chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Damian Collins MP. The APPG, convened by media literacy charity the Student View, includes MPs and Peers from the Labour, Conservative and Scottish National Parties. The Society of Editors had an article.

As usual, updates on the Coronavirus guidance can be found on the Courts and Tribunal Judiciary.

Internet and Social Media

A new tech regulator will work to limit the power of Google, Facebook and other tech platforms, the government has announced, in an effort to ensure a level playing field for smaller competitors and a fair market for consumers.

Under the plans, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will gain a dedicated Digital Markets Unit, empowered to write and enforce a new code of practice on technology companies which will set out the limits of acceptable behaviour. The Guardian had a piece.

Publishers and marketers have called on the UK’s competition watchdog to delay the rollout of Google’s newest advertising technology release over fears it will “cement its dominance of online business”. The Press Gazette had a piece.

Data Privacy and Data Protection

Marketing company director who made over 75,500 unsolicited marketing calls banned by the Insolvency Service for six years. Elia Bols was a director of AMS Marketing Limited, a telephone marketing company incorporated in January 2016.

The Telephone Preference Service (TPS), however, received 71 complaints between October 2016 and October 2017 about AMS Marketing’s unsolicited calls. A further 32 complaints were received by the Information Commissioners Office (ICO), who informed Elia Bols that a fine of £100,000 would be issued. There was a news on the ICO’s website.

DLA Piper’s Privacy Matters had a post “European Law on Cookies Guide”.

Surveillance

Telecoms companies in the UK must follow tougher security rules or face fines of up to ten per cent of turnover, under a new law laid in Parliament. The Telecommunications (Security) Bill aims to give the government unprecedented new powers to boost the security standards of the UK’s telecoms networks and remove the threat of high risk vendors to protect the UK from cyber threats. There was a press release on the government website, Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport.

Newspapers Journalism and Regulation

Hacked off had a post “The Daily Mail’s Coronavirus coverage contained serious distortions.  The Government’s failure to criticise it is pathetic and dangerous”.

IPSO has published a number of rulings and resolutions statements since our last Round Up:

Judgments

The judgment of Nicklin J in the case of Canterbury City Council v Persons Unknown [2020] EWHC 3153 (QB) is available on Bailii.

Last Week  in the Courts

On 23 and 24 November 2020, Nicol J  heard an application for summary judgment in the case of Wright v McCormack.  Although the defendant did not defend the application it was dismissed and the judge ordered that the matter should proceed to trial.  There was a comment on Coin Geek.

On 25 November 2020 Nicklin J handed down judgment in the case of Glenn v Kline [2020] EWHC 3182 (QB).

On 26 November 2020 Nicklin J heard consequential arguments in the case of Hijazi v Yaxley-Lennon.

As already mentioned, on 26 and 27 November 2020 Mann J heard another CMC in the phone hacking case of Various Claimants v MGN Ltd.

On 27 November 2020 Richard Spearman QC handed down judgment in the case of Gerrard & Anor v Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation Ltd & Anor [2020] EWHC 3241 (QB).  The defendants’ attempts to strike out the claimant’s harassment claim was unsuccessful.  The Judge held that covert surveillance could constitute harassment even if the defendants did not intend the surveillance to be discovered.  There was a comment on the 5RB website and on the Matrix website.

On the same day Warby J handed down judgment in the case of Ameyaw v McGoldrick [2020] EWHC 3234 (QB).

Media Law in Other Jurisdictions

 Australia

On 25 November 2020 Jagot J handed down judgment in the case of  Herron v HarperCollins Publishers Australia Pty Ltd (No 3) [2020] FCA 1687.  This was a libel claim brought by two doctors from Sydney’s Chelmsford private hospital, where some patients underwent “deep sleep therapy” to the point of death.  Dr John Gill and former doctor John Herron mounted the case against HarperCollins following its publication of Steve Cannane’s 2016 book Fair Game: The Incredible Untold Story of Scientology in Australia.  The case was dismissed and the plaintiffs were ordered to pay costs.  The defences of “justification” and “qualified privilege were successful. The Guardian had a piece and the was a post on the 5RB website.

High-profile Sydney criminal lawyer Chris Murphy has launched defamation proceedings against The Daily Telegraph and a prominent columnist over an item he alleges portrays him as being so “ravaged by age” he is unfit to practise as a lawyer. The Sydney Morning Herald had a piece.

Canada

In the case of Sole Cleaning Inc. v. Chu, 2020 ONSC 7226 an application for interim injunction requiring the removal of social media posts was dismissed.

A lawyer for Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld argued in court that a precedent-setting anti SLAPP ruling dismissing a defamation lawsuit launched by Neufeld should be overturned. The hearing in the B.C. Court of Appeal related to a November 2019 decision by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Alan Ross throwing out the trustee’s defamation suit against former B.C. Teachers Federation (BCTF) president Glen Hansman. A Facebook post by Neufeld in October 2017 that was critical of a gender inclusivity education program had sparked a media storm with comments from Hansman in a number of publications and calls for Neufeld to step down. Canada.com had a piece.

CBC had a piece “Norman Wells responds to libel suit from former SAO”.

Ireland

Padraig Higgins, an Aer Lingus pilot, whose €387,000 defamation award by a jury was cut to €76,500 by the Court of Appeal (CoA), has been awarded the costs of the jury hearing. The amount of the costs of the two-week hearing against the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) before the jury in the High Court will be based on the CoA award. The CoA made no order as to the costs of the appeal hearing, which usually means both sides bear their own costs. Last year, the jury awarded €387,000 to Captain Higgins over three defamatory emails sent by the IAA in 2013. Mr Higgins claimed the emails falsely meant, among other things, he flew without a licence, was in breach of criminal and revenue law and put the safety of his own and his passenger’s life at risk. His was the first case in which a jury was asked to assess damages where defamation was admitted by the IAA and an apology given. Breakingnews.ie had a piece.

The Irish Times had a piece “Ex-TD seeks orders against Facebook and Twitter over allegedly defamatory posts”.

The Irish Examiner had a piece “Teenager wrongly accused of not having paid for pizza settles case for €12.5k

United States

The Hill had a piece “DOJ appeals ruling preventing it from replacing Trump in E. Jean Carroll defamation lawsuit”.

Research and Resources

Next Week in the Courts

On Monday 30 November 2020 Nicklin J will hear an application in the case of HJK v Persons Unknown.

Judgments

The following reserved judgments after public hearing in media law cases are outstanding:

Nwakamma v Umeyor, heard 13 to 16 July 2020 (HHJ Lewis)

Onwude v Dyer, heard 6-8 October 2020 (HHJ Parkes QC)

Wright v Granath, heard 15 October 2020 (Moylan, Singh and Popplewell LJJ)

Sicri v Associated Newspapers, heard 2, 3 and 6 November 2020 (Warby J).

B.C.Strategy UK Ltd v Keshet Broadcasting Ltd & ors heard 17 November 2020  (Saini J).

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.

1 Comment

  1. Dr John Olsson

    I am very sad to see Mr Justice Mann retire when he is so obviously in his prime. His judgments have always been so well crafted, for example in the Cliff Richard case and Gulati.

    I consider him to be one of the truly great judges of the last 50 years. He will not be easily replaced.

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