10.3.05

Jagger secures injunction over the Best bits

As our haphazard privacy law gets put to the test again it appears that you can enjoy a 'reasonable expectation of privacy' in the darkened recesses of a London nightclub.

Elizabeth Jagger has been coy about her relationshp with Calum Best - son of legendary footballer and pub frequenter George. However the couple seem to have got carried away in February when cctv captured their sexual antics in Soho's Prophecy club. The club owner decided to cash in on this photo op and the News of the World did the honourable tabloid thing of publishing the fuzzy stills.

Claiming the usual array of privacy related protection - copyright, confidence and data protection, Elizabeth persuaded the High Court to prevent further publication of the pics - in particular the cctv footage which she didn't want to join the likes of 'A Night in Paris' on the internet. What's interesting is the interpretation and definition of a place where one can enjoy 'a resaonable expectation of privacy'. Recent cases have decided that parks and public beaches don't qualify (as Kate Beckinsale and Anna Ford found out) but now - and arguably consistent with the PCC code - it would appear that the dingy corner of a nightclub might be OK.

In granting an interim injunction Mr Justice Bell said that Elizabeth had been a naughty girl but that such naughtiness did not amount to such 'moral turpitude' as to prevent her from seeking and being entitled to remedy from a court (Jamie Theakston was less successful in his attempt to suppress details of his visit to a Mayfair brothel). While certan elements of the public may be interested in seeing these pictures, the judge was not satisfied that their disclosure was in the public interest and would only serve what he termed as the 'prurient interest of others'. (but that interest doesn't half sell papers!)

9.3.05

Sun gets slammed for naming sex offence victim

Its one of the most basic faut-pas of court reporting yet time and again reporters get rapped for forgetting or neglecting to check copy in sensitive cases. The Sexual Offences Act 2003 together with the Sexual Offences Amendment Act 1992 and the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 clearly stipulate that victims of sexual offences should not be named or otherwise identified in reports without their express written consent. This is also reflected in the PCC code.

The Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith has today sanctioned the prosecution of the Sun's owners News International over an article that appeared last August. Although the paper rectified the mistake as soon as it became aware, it may still have to pay the price of its mistake in revealing the identity of the victim.

In the wake of allegations made against premiership football players regarding an incident at London's Grosvenor House Hotel in 2003, Lord Goldsmith raised concerns over the prominence given to that - and similar - cases before they had even come to court or been properly investigated. He reminded the media of their responsibilities and made it clear he would be gunning for infringers. While cases as the Grosvenor House allegations or the subsequent soccer rape allegations in Spain showed, its easy to warn the media not to misbehave but that doesn't help clarify the law in this area.

However this case is more clear cut and all the Sun can hope for is that its response to its mistake will mitigate the punishment meted out over this misdemeanour.

As the law stands, the media are prohibited from reporting on sexual offences in such a manner as may reveal the identity of the victim or enable someone to discover their identity. This anonymity protection lasts for the lifetime of the victim. Prior to the relevant section of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act and 2003 Act coming into force there used to be a slight and subtle distinction between when an offence was alleged and someone was actually arrested and charged. It used to be the case that from the time an offence was alleged no publication should reveal the identity of the victim and then from arrest and charge no report that could lead to the uncovering of the victim's identity was permitted. This has been tightened such that unless the media obtain permission from the victim or/and the court then nothing should be published that could lead to their identity being revealed.

While victims have this anonymity right, defendants are more exposed. Debate prior to the passing of the 2003 Sexual Offences Act looked at whether defendants should have some anonymity before charges were brought - however as the Act got pushed through Parliament it was left to the police and media to self-regulate the identification of defenadants/alleged defendants in such cases. Where the identity of the defendant is in doubt the media still need to be cautious in any report that could suggest culpability.

4.3.05

PCC offers guidance on the Data Protection Act

The PCC has this week issued a guidance note on the Data Protection Act (DPA) as it affects journalists under the PCC code. Too late for the police in their Soham murder investigation and following confusion in the courts over how the DPA interfaces with to privacy and confidentiality actions, this note provides a useful interpretation that could offer guidance on journalist's complinace with the DPA in future legal actions where DAP infringement is alleged (as was the case in Douglas v Hello and similar actions).

Exemptions from liability include:
that the publication/disclosure 'was necessary for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime'
OR 'was justified as being in the public interest'.

In either case a court would have to decide whether, in the circumstances, obtaining the information without the agreement of the organisation or individual concerned (the data controller) was of sufficient importance to override the protection afforded by the Act.

PCC Guidance Note HERE

Sex, lies and videotape - the Jackson trial continues

It was always going to be big billing on the news agenda but the first week of Michael Jackson's trial on child abuse charges is already throwing up all sorts of issues - what can Jay Leno say on his Tonight Show - will basher Bashir be busted for contempt - were the victim's family coerced into telling lies on tape - were bedtime stories and coco replaced with booze and porn. The Santa Barbara court has its work cut out when it comes to the colourful array of conflicting evidence and that's before worrying about media coverage of the trial.

More:
BBC News HERE
Jay Leno seeks to clarify gag - CNN LAW HERE

3.3.05

PCC says News of the World response to Lampard 'steamy encounters' claim was sufficient

The PCC has this week adjudicated that the News of the World had done enough to address the inaccuracies in its account of a story supplied by Jodie Marsh run as 'My secret sex games with Lampard and 4 other stars'. A story that started out suggesting Jodie Marsh had sexual relations and kept the polaroids as proof ended up with an admission that she'd had a fling that stopped short of sex when they were teenagers. The paper was prepared to set the record straight but not go as far as include the edited statement provided by Frank Lampard's solicitors. The PCC was satisfied that the paper did enough in response to Jodie's porky pies and rejected the complaint.

PCC adjudication HERE