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Daily Mail on the naughty step for dodgy immigration story

19 July 2012 by

Somebody call Lord Justice Leveson! The Daily Mail have earned themselves a position on the legal naughty step by ‘naming and shaming’ a “controversial” immigration judge for allowing an appeal on human rights grounds, whilst failing to mention that the Home Office themselves had conceded the point.

The article by Andy Whelan and Ross Slater, entitled Judge who let Taliban soldier remain in Britain now allows refugee who raped girl, 12, stay in UK, even included a paparazzi snap of Immigration Judge Perkins looking vaguely sinister. The Mail reported, correctly, that the judge ruled “removing [the Appellant] would be contrary to the United Kingdom’s obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights“. This is technically right. But there is more. The excellent Free Movement Blog has tracked down the judgment, in which the Judge also made clear that

Before us, on 12 November 2009, Ms R Ashraf, who then represented the [Home Office], accepted that the appeal had to be allowed on human rights grounds.

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First they came for the journalists…

23 February 2012 by

News of the deaths of Sunday Times reporter Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik and the serious injuries of photographer Paul Conroy and Edith Bouvier, a freelance journalist reporting for Le Figaro, from a mortar shell that hit the building in Homs, Syria that they were using as makeshift media centre has saddened and shocked reporters and readers. So does a sobering list of more than fifteen of their professional colleagues who have also died reporting the Arab Spring.  Worse still are reports that the journalists may have been deliberately targeted by the Syrian government forces.  It is a reminder that journalists are offered too little protection by international law.

It is clear from the many tributes to her that Ms Colvin was an extraordinary person:  a woman of verve, replete with humanity, she was fearless in the face of carefully assessed and weighed risk.  In 2001 after losing an eye in a grenade attack by a Sri Lankan government soldier whilst reporting on the Tamil Tigers, she wrote:

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Supreme Court rules BBC need not reveal internal Israel-Palestine coverage report

15 February 2012 by

Sugar (Deceased) (Represented by Fiona Paveley) (Appellant) v British Broadcasting Corporation (Respondent) [2012] UKSC 4 – Read judgment / press summary

The Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that an internal BBC report into its coverage of the Israeli Palestinian conflict was “information held for the purposes of journalism, art or literature” and therefore need not be released to the public under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Four of the justices were of the view that even if information is held only partly for the purposes of journalism, art or literature, it is outside the scope of the FOIA. Lord Wilson however, was of the opinion that if information is held predominantly for the purposes of journalism, art or literature, it is outside the scope of FOIA and that the Balen Report was held predominantly for those purposes. The BBC will be relieved that the “partly” view prevailed, as the “predominately” test might in practice have brought a lot of internal documents within the scope of the FOIA.

The “Balen Report” was commissioned by the BBC in 2004 by a senior broadcast journalist, Michael Balen. It was commissioned following allegations of bias in the coverage. Mr Sugar, a solicitor, applied to see the report under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. The BBC argued that the report was “information held for the purposes of journalism, art or literature” and therefore fell outside of the Act under the terms of section 7 of Schedule 1 to the Act.

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The princess and the actor: two important right to privacy rulings – Inforrm

31 January 2012 by

The European Court of Human Rights has announced today that it will deliver two Grand Chamber judgments, in the cases of Axel Springer AG v Germanyand von Hannover v Germany (No.2) on 7 February 2012.  The cases were both heard more than 15 months ago, on 13 October 2010.

We had a post about the hearing at the time (and an earlier preview).Both cases concern the publication in the media of material which is alleged to be private.  The Axel Springercase concerned the publication in “Bild” of an article about a well-known television actor, being arrested for possession of cocaine. The article was illustrated by three pictures of the actor. The German court granted him an injunction to prohibit the publication of the article and the photos. The applicant company did not challenge the judgment concerning the photos.  The newspaper published a second article in July 2005, which reported on the actor being convicted and fined for illegal possession of drugs after he had made a full confession.

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More secret trials? No thanks

31 January 2012 by

A child learns early that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it. Thankfully that principle does not apply to Government consultations and this is aptly demonstrated by a group of responses to the consultation into whether “closed material” (secret evidence) procedures should be extended to civil trials.

Of the responses that I have read, there is very little support for the proposals as they stand and, as journalist Joshua Rozenberg has pointed out, the most damning criticism has come from the very lawyers who are currently involved in “closed” proceedings.

If you are interested in the issue, the Joint Committee on Human Rights is hearing evidence on it today from two special advocates, including my co-editor Angus McCullough QC (see his post on the topic), as well as the current and former independent reviewers of terrorism legislation. The session begins at 2:20pm and can be watched live here.

As I did with the Bill of Rights Commission consultation, I asked people to send me their consultation responses. What follows is a wholly unscientific summary of the ones I received:

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UK loses 3 out of 4 European human rights cases? More like 1 in 50, actually

12 January 2012 by

It is rightly said that 95% of statistics are made up. Today’s Daily Mail front page headline contained a typically exuberant statistical claim: Europe’s war on British justice: UK loses three out of four human rights cases, damning report reveals. According to journalist James Slack “Unelected Euro judges” are mounting a “relentless attack on British laws laid down over centuries by Parliament”.

The Telegraph’s Andrew Hough and Tom Whitehead chime in with Britain loses 3 in 4 cases at human rights court. But are they right? To add a bit of spice to this statistical journey, I will aim to use at least one analogy involving a popular TV singing contest.

The “explosive research” is a report by Robert Broadhurst, a Parliamentary legal researcher for a group of Conservative MPs. The headline grabbing figures are in this paragraph:

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Are some rights to private life just not cricket?

9 January 2012 by

Mr Abdullah Manuwar and Secretary of State for the Home Department IA26/543/2010 – Read decision

We have posted on this blog previously on some of the poor reporting of human rights cases. Alarm bells were ringing as the Sunday Telegraph reported student Abdullah Munawar’s appeal on human rights grounds against a refusal to grant him leave to stay in the UK, citing his playing cricket as a reason he had a private life under Article 8 of the ECHR.

However, considering the judgment, the Telegraph article makes a valid point on the limits provided by human rights on immigration decisions, and shows that not all journalism critical of the Human Rights Act is inaccurate.


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Ferdinand v MGN – a “Kiss n’ Tell” public interest defence succeeds – Lorna Skinner

2 October 2011 by

Ferdinand v Mgn Ltd (Rev 2) [2011] EWHC 2454 (QB) – Read judgment

In the first “misuse of private information” trial against a newspaper since Max Mosley in 2008, Mr Justice Nicol dismissed a claim brough by England and Manchester United footballer Rio Ferdinand against the “Sunday Mirror”.

The Judge found that, although the claimant’s Article 8 rights to private and family life were engaged, there was a public interest in correcting a false image promoted by the claimant.  It was also held that the article contributed to a debate as to the claimant’s fitness to be a role model in the light of his appointment as England football captain.

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Analysis – Daily Mirror and The Sun in contempt over Jo Yeates murder case

29 July 2011 by

Her Majesty’s Attorney-General Claimant – and – (1) MGN Limited Defendants (2) News Group Newspapers Limited – Read judgment

The High Court has found that the Daily Mirror and The Sun were in breach of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 (1981 Act) in relation to their reporting of the Jo Yeates murder case. The court was strongly critical of the “vilification” of a man who was arrested but quickly released without charge.

The proceedings were in relation to Christopher Jefferies, a school teacher who was arrested early on in the investigation. The court fined the Daily Mirror £50,000 and The Sun £18,000.

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Was it human rights wot won the phone hacking scandal?

12 July 2011 by

2011 may be remembered as the year of Article 8. The public may not realise it, but the two major news stories of this year have had at their core the 8th article of the European Convention on Human Rights, the right to privacy and family life. And without this controversial law, the phone-hacking scandal may never have been exposed.

First came the super-injunctions scandal, in which the public, egged on by the popular press, became enraged at sportsmen using expensive privacy injunctions to keep details of their alleged bad behaviour out of the news. That scandal has now been replaced by a much bigger one, relating to illegal phone hacking. The affair has already led to the demise of the News of the World.

As the human rights organisation Liberty have pointed out, the newspaper was never a fan of New Labour’s Human Rights Act. Amongst other things, it fought an expensive and partially successful privacy battle against Max Mosley over claims that he slept with prostitutes in a “sick Nazi orgy“. It has always been suspected that the tabloid press’s almost universal antipathy towards the 1998 Act, which in theory at least should be popular as it protects citizens against nasty state intrusion, was inspired by the fear that the privacy rights it bolstered, despite the competing right to freedom of expression, would prevent them doing their jobs. And now, with some irony, it is a tabloid newspaper and not a public authority which may represent the 1998 Act’s most high-profile scalp.

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Turns out there weren’t that many super-injunctions after all

20 May 2011 by

Lord Neuberger has published his long-awaited report on super-injunctions. His committee was set up in April 2010 in order to “examine the issues around the use of injunctions which bind the press and so-called ‘super-injunctions“.

In summary, the report emphasises the principles of open justice and the right to freedom of speech, and that courts should “ensure that any derogation from open justice is the minimum necessary to secure the proper administration of justice”. It recommends that Civil Procedure Rule 39.2 (concerning public hearings) should be amended to make reference to the strict necessity test.

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How Supreme Court Live works

18 May 2011 by

This week the Sky News website began broadcasting UK Supreme Court hearings live. I have been talking up this idea for a while, and in my view the new service marks an important moment for access to justice.

In its first few days, Supreme Court Live has been showing an insurance case which has been, shall we say, a little difficult to follow (of course it would have been much more difficult to follow but for the excellent advocacy on display…) But the service works well and the footage is of high quality by current standards.

Whilst watching the case my mind wandered to the nuts and bolts of the arrangement between Sky and the court, and whether there are plans to expand the service in the future. I asked the Supreme Court, and this is what they said.

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A privacy injunction binding on the whole world

25 April 2011 by

OPQ v BJM [2011] EWHC 1059 (QB – Read judgment

The case of OPQ v BJM addresses one of the most difficult practical issues in privacy law and adopts a novel solution.  Eady J granted a “contra mundum” injunction – that is, one binding on the whole world – in an ordinary “blackmail” privacy case.   This means that, although a “final judgment” will be entered, the injunction continues to bind the press and other third parties. 

The case has attracted considerable media criticism, for example in the “Daily Mail” which, in a front page story tells its readers: “TV Star’s Shame Hushed up for Ever” (incidentally, the reference to a “TV Star” seems, at first sight, to breach terms of the instruction across the top and bottom of the judgment which is, presumably, part of the court’s order: “Publication of any report as to the subject-matter of these proceedings or the identity of the Claimant is limited to what is contained in this judgment“).

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Daily Mail back on naughty step over low-IQ sex ban case

8 February 2011 by

I posted last week on the interesting and morally complex case in which a judge in the Court of Protection ruled that a 41-year-old man with a mild learning disability did not have the mental capacity to consent to sex and should be prevented by a local council from doing so.

The Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail have picked up on this story. The Mail’s Richard Hartley-Parkinson appears to have based his article solely on the Telegraph’s, in light of this paragraph:

Mr Justice Mostyn said the case threw up issues ‘legally, intellectually and morally’ because sex is ‘one of the most basic human functions’ according to the Daily Telegraph.

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Case Law: JIH v News Group Newspapers, anonymity regained – Edward Craven

1 February 2011 by

The Court of Appeal yesterday handed down judgment in the case of JIH v News Group Newspapers Ltd ([2011] EWCA Civ 42). In allowing the appeal against the order of Tugendhat J ([2010] EWHC 2818 (QB)) the Court ordered that the claimant’s anonymity should be restored.

Although the Court stressed that each decision is fact sensitive, this approach seems likely to be followed in most types of privacy injunction cases. This eagerly awaited decision adds to the growing body of case law concerning reporting restrictions where an injunction has been granted to restrain publication of information about a claimant’s private life.

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