Category Archives: Media Law

Judge as juror

Dispute Resolution analysis: The High Court, sitting without a jury, recently ruled against former Conservative chief whip Andrew Mitchell in his libel claim against News Group Newspapers for publishing a story alleging that he had called PC Rowland a ‘pleb’. Nigel Tait, a partner at Carter-Ruck, along with associate Isabella Piasecka, considers the decision and the wider issues of judges acting as jurors.

Original news

Mitchell MP v News Group Newspapers Ltd; Rowland v Mitchell MP [2014] EWHC 3590 (QB), [2014] All ER (D) 12 (Nov)

The proceedings concerned two libel actions arising from a notorious incident at the gates of Downing Street on the evening of 19 September 2012. The Queen’s Bench Division held that evidence of experts in the field of phonetics and field of vision/trajectory analysis could be admitted by the parties. Further, evidence of alleged previous similar incidents involving the claimant in the first proceedings would be admitted, save for six allegations, as it was relevant and there would not be unfair prejudice. Continue reading

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“Right to be forgotten” – the first six months

In May this year, the European Court of Justice delivered its seminal ruling in Google Spain SL, Google Inc. v Agencia Española de Protección de Datos, Mario Costeja González.

Following a referral to it by the National High Court of Spain, the Court of Justice ruled that under the European Data Protection Directive (Directive 95/46), an internet search engine operator (such as Google and Microsoft’s “Bing”) is responsible for the processing that it carries out of personal data which appear on web pages published by third parties. As such, where the search results for an individual’s name include a link to a web page which contains such personal data on them, that individual – as the “data subject” – can approach the search engine operator directly to request the removal of personal data which are inadequate or excessive for the purposes for which they are processed, which have become irrelevant, or which have not been kept up-to-date. Continue reading

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Christopher Jefferies: a reputation restored

The ITV drama about Christopher Jefferies – the man wrongly accused of the murder of Joanna Yeates and vilified by the UK press – was moving and thought-provoking in equal measure.

The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies trod a fine line, in portraying the hell that Jefferies’ life became thanks to the media and retaining a sense of the greater tragedy that was Joanna’s murder. The final scene, when Joanna’s boyfriend turns up at the couple’s former flat and tends to her herb garden, was particularly poignant, while Jason Watkins’ performance as Jefferies was outstanding. Continue reading

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Plebgate — how new libel laws have changed the defamation landscape

This article by Adam Tudor was first published in The Times on 27 November 2014.

Plebgate is back. Last Monday former Tory chief whip Andrew Mitchell’s libel trial against The Sun began in Court 13 of the Royal Courts of Justice. What was and wasn’t said at Downing Street’s security gates on the evening of September 19, 2012, in a confrontation between Mitchell and PC Toby Rowland, will also be tested in an accompanying libel action by Rowland against Mitchell. Continue reading

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Phone Hacking –Trinity Mirror – Further admission of liability

In September we reported on the news that Trinity Mirror, publisher of the Daily Mirror and Sunday Mirror, had admitted liability in respect of claims brought by four individuals who sued over allegations of voicemail interception.

In a further recent development it has now been reported that the Sunday Mirror’s former investigations editor Graham Johnson has admitted intercepting voicemail messages whilst at the newspaper. Continue reading

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Social media is not above the law

The rise of social media appears to be unstoppable. Consider these figures, from a recent Forbes article:

  • Facebook has over 1.3 billion monthly active users and $2.9 billion in quarterly revenue
  • Twitter has 271 million monthly active users and $312 million in quarterly revenue
  • Both rely heavily on mobile users, with 86 per cent of Twitter’s traffic coming via mobile devices while 68 per cent of Facebook’s traffic is through such devices
  • Every minute, there are roughly 350,000 tweets and 382,000 Facebook “likes”.

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Phone Hacking: Trinity Mirror admits liability

It has recently been reported that Trinity Mirror, publisher of the Daily Mirror and Sunday Mirror, has admitted liability in respect of claims brought by four individuals who sued over allegations of voicemail interception. This comes with the news that Trinity Mirror has also settled six other related claims. The alleged victims include Shane Ritchie and actress Lucy Benjamin along with Sven-Goran Eriksson and actor Christopher Eccleston.

Trinity Mirror had previously made unsuccessful applications for summary judgment and to strike out several of these claims. Continue reading

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Trial by jury: to be a rare exception

From the first ruling on mode of trial since the abolition of the right to jury trial in defamation cases, it is apparent that the court will only on rare occasions exercise its residual discretion.

In his judgment in the case of Tim Yeo MP V Times Newspapers Limited, in which Carter-Ruck acts for the Claimant, Warby J examined the constitutional history to the new legislation and ultimately dismissed the Defendant’s application for trial by jury. Times Newspapers had argued that, since the subject matter of the case involved issues of public interest concerning the reputation of a senior Member of Parliament and the newspaper’s freedom of expression, it should be heard with a jury.
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Cooke and Anor v MGN: Raising the bar

After an anxious wait for the first judicial interpretation of the new “serious harm” threshold imposed by the Defamation Act 2013, Wednesday’s judgment by Bean J in Cooke and Anor v MGN [2014] EWHC 2831 gives an early indication of just how much the bar has been raised. Continue reading

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Verdicts in News of the World phone hacking trial

The News of the World phone hacking trial reached its conclusion this week, with the jury delivering verdicts for the majority of charges. Following a trial which lasted for some eight months, former editor Andy Coulson was found guilty of conspiracy to intercept voicemail messages, in the period between October 2000 and August 2006.

Rebekah Brooks, a former editor of the publication, and Stuart Kuttner, a former managing editor, were cleared of the same charge relating to phone hacking. Mrs Brooks was further cleared of conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office. Along with her husband Charlie Brooks, and News International staff Mark Hanna and Cheryl Carter, Mrs Brooks was also cleared of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice in relation to alleged destruction or removal of evidence during the Police investigation. Continue reading

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