A welcome and overdue opening to care proceedings in court

The UK's court rooms have been closed shops when it comes to family and care proceedings. Over the years we have seen a catalogue of issues and questionable cases relying on equally questionable 'expert' witnesses.

There has been a very gradual shift to open family proceedings but today has seen the first step in the right direction for care - or 'protection' - hearings as they are now known, after a handful of media organisations succeeded in their bid to be allowed to scrutinise and (subject to restrictions) report on care proceedings.

Mr Justice Jackson will provide his reasoning tomorrow but for today he ruled that private court hearing in protection cases could be open to scrutiny and reporting.

The case in question involved Hillingdon's council decisions relating to the care of an autistic boy and his father's campaign to be allowed to keep him at home.

More from Guardian here

Mediabeak thinks this is a welcome and overdue move - it could be that the reasoning delivered by Mr Justice Jackson tomorrow does seek to limit this very narrowly to the facts of this particular case but even if it does it represents a step in the right direction. Both the family and care (protection) courts need to be open to scrutiny - such scrutiny - or reporting - does not need to mean that vulnerable people or sensitive situations are fully exposed or reported on but what is DOES mean is that the proceedings and those providing evidence in relation to them and making decisions about them are subject to scrutiny. Having seen what has happened in family courts in the past this is both a necessary and welcome move in the administration of justice and fairness to those who the courts are - supposedly - seeking to protect.

Related comment - Time to open up (family court reporting)

Never mind extradition - Assange applies for trade mark to own his own bad news

What better way to while away the time between extradition ruling and appeal than to file a trade mark application for ones own name. Yes, Julian Assange has - on the 14 February - applied to trade mark his own name under Class 41 goods and services: Public speaking services; news reporter services; journalism; publication of texts other than publicity texts; education services; entertainment services.

So, if it gets granted he will be able to control the use of his name in relation to news about him - depending on how one perceives this it is genius, just plain weird, megalomaniacal. What it does mean is that if it is not opposed ten following publication, Assange will be able to control the use of his name in relaiton to Class 41 services. The Register offers some good argument as to why the application might be opposed but if he secures the mark then he could have some fun in seeking to control how his name is used in media reports - undoubtedly a creative angle cooked up by his legal team - and one which if conceived on that basis, Mediabeak does think is pretty shrewd and will set an interesting precedent.

That having been said - we've had plenty examples of people not being able to trade mark their own names - whether Victoria Beckham "Posh" in the UK or Sarah Palin in the US.


Galliano slaps defamation action on his accusers

High drama in high fashion week as John Galliano got arrested by the Paris police for allegedly unleashing an anti-semitic and racist rant at some fellow café customers.

The alleged crime:
According to his accusers - a Géraldine Bloch and a Philippe Virgiti - the top (if eccentric) fashion designer - sat at a table at one of the capital's more hip cafés - La Perle - and, having ordered a mojito to drink turned round and called Bloch a b**ch and said to her and Virgiti.."dirty Jewish face, you should be dead...f***g Asian bastard, I will kill you." - which certainly would not be the sort of small talk you would expect to hear on a night out. It was the outraged Bloch (seemingly she is not jewish anyway) who called the police who proceeded to arrest Galliano but then released him pending further investigations.

The penalty:
Under French law if you make anti-semitic (or equally racist) remarks then this is punishable by up to 6 months in prison.

The reaction:
The usual moral outrage and he was suspended from his post as the main designer at Dior. Some see this as a major event while others consider this to be prudent action from a reputational point of view for Dior until the police clarify what went on. If he were to be dropped by Dior that would have a big impact on the label as much as on him.

The defamation claim:
While Bloch went on French TV 'anonymously' to be paid for her version of events, there have been several reports that shed a different light on events and present a picture where Galliano took up his table at La Perle and then acknowledged the people at the table next to him (Bloch and Virgiti) and it was them who turned on Galliano and said to him that he was 'ugly and disgusting' and told him to go away - to which he then replied to Bloch that she was ugly and that her 'bag' was also ugly.

So it seems that there are conflicting versions of events and it would appear that the one subsequently emerging seems less random than the one originally complained of.

From a defamation perspective the damage this episode has done to Galliano (in the short term if proven to be untrue) is certainly far further reaching than the exchange between the tables at La Perle.

If it transpires that those who were quick to accuse were unfounded in their accusatons then it could be they who face the penalty.

French defamation law:
This is regulated by the 1881 Free Press Law that provides that any "allegation or imputation of a fact which undermines the honour or reputation" of the person who is the subject of the allegation or imputation amounts to libel.

So if Galliano did not in fact call Bloch a bitch or threaten to kill Virgiti for being Asian then it could be te accusers who get called to account rather than the accused - which under French law could transalte into a custodial sentenced and/or fine.

Given the impact this has had so far its unlikely Galliano is going to drop his action in a hurry.

More from Le Figaro
NY Daily News


Assange extradition - legally correct yet politically dubious -

Another day inside and outsisde Belmarsh and Assange got his answer and the media their headlines - he's getting extradited to Sweden. (Full judgment here)
It wasn't a done deal and still is subject to appeal but reviewing the evidence (in the public domain) and the judgment issued by Mr Justice Riddle, Mediabeak concludes that the legal argument supporting the decision to extradite on the grounds given is supportable - i.e. it is legally correct to grant extradition (in spite of the manner in which such extradition was sought and political intervention by the Swedish Prime Minister) - though such decision may not - in all the circumstances be the correct one.

Unless or until successfully appealed, today's decision allows the UK to get rid of Assange and make him Sweden's problem.The reassurance he has and would have had back in the UK is that there would need to be sufficient evidence upon which to bring an action and try him. The current position is somewhat different in that the pretext for issuing the European Arrest Warrant was to question Assange to ascertain if he was involved in a crime in the first place.

Having read the judgment it is clear Mr Justice Riddle has played it safe and by the book to produce a ruling that appears - in Mediabeak's assesment - defensible and while not what many would want to hear - does legally stack up. The key focus - aside from the pending appeal and its outcome - has to be on the case and trial back in Sweden. To the extent questions were raised over the issue of the European Arrest Warrant, there has to be a line of questioning that adresses and supports this.

srenting ede


Facebook to sue Daily Mail over paedophile headline - don't do it and here's why..

OK so Facebook bosses are naturally less than happy about the Daily Mail's coverage of a 'sex ring' in Devon that - it would appear - used social networking to prey on underage girls.

Facebook having been mentioned as one of the social networks paedophiles may have been using, the Daily Mail ran a headline: "How many more victims of Facebook sex gang?". The Mail removed the headline online but is pushing back on Facebook's demands to publish a full apology for having published the headline in the first place. Facebook has run to its lawyers who will no doubt give good advice but that is unlikely to provide a solution in this case - here's why:

An organisation such as Facebook can't sue for libel but could only bring an action for malicious falsehood if it could show that the Mail was being malicious and that Facebook had suffered actual loss as a result. There is nothing to suggest the Mail was targeting Facebook - it was just referencing it in its headline to associate to the idea of social networking - so malice is not going to stand up in a hurry. It is also unlikely that Facebook will be able to show or quantify any particularised loss as a result of the headline.

The headline 'Facebook sex gang' on objective reading does not suggest that it was a Facebook-led or organised or sponsored 'sex gang' but rather - in line with the story and coverage - a 'sex gang' that used Facebook (among other social networks) to engage in its paedophile activities. So the adjective 'Facebook' attaches to the Sex Gang as an adjective rather than as a noun with Facebook being the lead on the subject.

Of course not organisation wants to have its name in the same headline as "Sex Gang" but that doesn't mean that the headline or decision to publish it is of itself actionable.

The outrage that Facebook should be vocalising, dealing with and PR-ing is that a 'Sex Gang' or any such gang or paedophiles could be abusing its system/network for criminal ends. The PR opportunity for Facebook is to acknowledge that is - as indeed all social networking sites need to do more to protect the vulnerable online. If the media - in this case the Daily Mail - report on the fact that paedophiles may have used Facebook as one medium through which to prey on young girls then the fault lies not with the media for reporting this but for the social networks for not doing more to protect against this.

Facebook has missed a trick here - rather than seek to sue the Mail it should be teaming up with it in the 'Fight against online paedos'.

It also seems ironic that a supposedly progressive media platform such as Facebook would resort to the often maligned print-press originating (though now having online remit) PCC to complain about a newspaper - there are smarter online viral responses to be had.

Rather than squabble over being associated with paedophiles social and new media should be combining to introduce measures and fight against the acessiblity of modern mediums to sadly age-old perversions and do something positive rather than seek to sue each other over a problem they cannot solve.

To extradite or not extradite - d-day looms for Assange

So will the UK try to wash its hands of Assange or will His Honour - Judge Riddle - decide that Swedish prosecutors can't simply use a trial by media to secure an actual show trial back in Sweden?

According to one of the more learned placed legal sources, Matrix chambers' Julian Knowles, Assange should pack his bags and expect an imminent journey to meet Marianne Ny in Stockholm. Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Law in Action programme - as reported in the Guardian - Knowles commented that extradition was more likely to happen than not and that despite the protestations of Assange's legal team, the European Arrest Warrant as issued by Marianne Ny could have legal bite.

Whatever gets decided in court tomorrow there is still right of appeal so to the extend the media will get more material the final decision on extradition could still be reserved for some future date - at which rate the US might finally have got round to closing Guantanamo and the threat of Assange being 'put down' by US security forces might seem more fanciful than conspiracy theorists may currently be suggesting. All the while the prosecution witnesses in Sweden might also get bored or bought out or whatever...this is no done deal.

Has Libyan intelligence taken down Twitter?

Twitter is down just as the Tweeting from Benghazi was getting interesting. Not known for its tolerance of free speech and reporting what is left of Gaddafi's dictatorship has warned 'western' journalists that they will be treated as 'outlaws' - a dictatorial sub-text of 'if you try and report what is going on we will shoot you'.

Let's hope not too many people get shot trying to report on how many innocent people are getting killed so that Gaddafi can exit as a 'martyr' - the question being what cause does he think he is being a martyr to?

Libya ranks at number 160 (of 178) in the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index - more on this from Menassat


Sticky wicket for ECB as libel action looms

What was arguably one of the sport's most messy and mutinous affairs could be set for some more airtime when the libel action by those at the centre of the affair against one of their key accusers - Giles Clarke of the ECB - hits the High Court in July.

As reported by the Telegraph some four weeks of court time have been set aside for this courtroom test match that will prove to be either bravado or vindication on the part of the plaintiffs and could be not just costly but crippling for the ECB.

Clarke claims his criticisms of the self-styled splinter faction spearheaded by Modi and IMG were justified and as such his comments at the time were either justified or covered by qualified privilege. While there may be sympathy towards Clarke and his bid to uphold the integrity and power of the ECB, the burden will be on him and his legal team to show that in so doing he did not defame his adversaries.


Relevance of reputation in libel action

This week sees "a businessman with substantial interests in commercial property in the London area" pursue his libel action against the Evening Standard over its suggestions that he had "a bad reputation for being part of an organised crime group and for violent criminal behaviour".

The case follows the publication by the paper of a story last year that suggested David Hunt was engaged in various property and other deals on behalf of an East End crime syndicate. Hunt issued a writ in August last year claming the paper had defamed him and not given him any or sufficient right of reply.

Having reached Mr Justice Tugendhat's court room on Friday, Hunt's counsel moved to get parts of the defence - which is running a justification claim - struck out.

The defence of justification requires the defendant to prove that the words used in an article etc are true both in substance and fact - i.e. if you accuse someone of being a 'gangster' or being part of an 'organised crime group' you have to show this to be the case as defamation law presumes that the defamatory words being complained about are in fact false unless/until the defence can show that they are in fact true.

So the Evening Standard will need to prove that its desription of Hunt is justified -i.e. true - and Hunt will - as Mr Justice Tugendhat reminded the court - be allowed to establish his reputation at the outset of the trial so that the court can assess to what extent his reputation will have been damaged by the defamation. So on day one it was 1:0 to Hunt after his counsel got parts of the defence relating to his character and known associates (in this particular case a deceased associate) struck out - i.e. they cannot be used as evidence to show that Hunt was part of a crime group.

Tugendhat added the pithy comment that it was not in question that Hunt had significant business interests in commercial property in the London area but the question was whether he was in fact a 'businessman'. The case continues.


European Human Rights Court - the UK response

We've seen the UK push back on the European Convention on Human Rights and question compliance with the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights - notably over prisoner voting rights - so what happens next.

Some may say this is another example of the UK being dictated over by Europe while others - notably European Court Judges - say the UK is being dictatorial by not wishing to comply with the dictats of the pan-European justice system.

Justice Secretary Ken Clarke today hinted at what might turn out to be the neatest solution namely, reform the bits we don't like. From what he was saying to Andrew Marr, he sees the UK's turn at taking over the Chair of the Council of Europe later this year as providing a good opportunity to pay the Human Rights Court a visit and do some rearranging. His approach would not be to change the law itself but to address the way it gets implemented and by whom. So read between the lines and - if the UK gets its way - it could engineer some great procedural protocols to get around some of the human rights rulngs that are too 'right on' for the UK's liking.

While its not a European Human Rights Court case as such there is a ruling in the pipeline from the European Court of Justice which on the 1 March is expected to hand down its decision on the issue of gender discrimination as applied to pricing differentials in the financial services and insurance sector. It will be interesting to see how that goes down at a country level given that the implications of the case would force all of Europe' insurers to offer gender neutral pricing.

The UK has - belatedly - woken up to the impact of human rights law and now wants to rewrite the rules.

Did the Real Hustle really hustle?

The idea that a TV programme about people being scammed - or hustled - could actually have itself done just that by hiring those who were hustled is somewhat amusing. So here's how the 'con' is meant to have been worked:

The mark = the BBC
The con = to sell a reality programme playing off the interest in/success of the BBC drama series Hustle but featuring real life people who had actually been hustled - except they were not real life but paid to pretend they had been hustled.

The Mail on Sunday splashed the exposee today and - insofar as what the paper has established is in fact true - then this is indeed a disgrace. The programme concept is an engaging one but if they have cut corners and executed it by staging the scams and sequences then that is a deceptive as the scams themselves.

What the production company have been reported as saying is that: "Occasionally, because of, for example, equipment problems, we have had to re-shoot short elements of the set up after the hustle has been completed and that can involve giving some direction to the 'marks' to ensure that the footage matches.

"However it is completely untrue to say that any 'mark' was an actor who was fully briefed in advance and paid to act as though they had been hustled."

So what might one conclude? - being cynical and playing on semantics one could suggest that if one were inviting people to go and try out a fake cash machine to see if they would fall for it or give them some money to play roulette and see if they spot a scam then the people being invited or given the money may still have 'real reactions' and may 'have been conned' but the whole scenario will have been set up. This differs from a retelling accounts of people who really have been tricked or setting up a con and then seeing who falls for it.

There is a big distinction between staging something to reconstruct real events and creating events to stage something seemingly real.

Reconstructions are editorially permissable but blatant constructions are not. As the Mail on Sunday article points out, the BBC has been hit with this issue before. If this does turn out to be a con then it will be a case of what was an original good drama series being replaced by poor reality. If its not real then don't fake it.

BBC Editorial Guidelines


PCC raps Take a Break for identifying sex abuse victim

Victim identification is one of the key areas of reporting restrictions and one of the most basic mistakes a reporter can make with some of the most upsetting consequences for the victim.

In this case Take a Break magazine had run a touching real-life story about two sisters who has been abused by their stepfather when they were younger. The issue was that only one of the sisters had agreed to tell her story and be identified. So when the magazine ran the story identifying both sisters and including a photograph, this caused great upset to the sister that had sought anonymity.

It appears that the editor of the paper had relied on the reporter who had assured them that they had indeed obtained permission from both sisters. An apologetic editor immediately admitted the failings to the PCC and undertook editorial measures to ensure there would not be a repeat of such failing. For the reporter in question it was probably a career-limiting decision not to fully check and gain express permission from their sources - and pretend to their editor they had.

The PCC upheld the complaint under Clauses 3 (Privacy) and 11 (Victims of sexual assault) of the PCC Editors' Code.

Journalists and editors have to take great care when it comes to victim identification and even where they might have thought they are acting within the rules and had not sought to identify a victim and identification can still come about - see this previous PCC adjudication


Not so foxy Knoxy's parents facing libel battle

Things are not looking too promising for the Knox family and they are probably wishing they hadn't 'spoken out' over the police process that saw Amanda Knox sent to jail for the murder of Meredith Kercher and could lead to Curt Knox and Edda Mellas being prosecuted for libelling the Italian police.

Aside from the murder conviction, Amanda Knox is already on her second libel action -she has already been found liable for libel for seeking to frame bar owner Patrick Lumumba for the Kercher killing and ordered to pay €40,000 - and currently faces court action for her accusations of the police's treatment of her which are also being treated as libel and for which she has a case coming up in a couple of months time.

Now her parents are in the frame for criticising the Italian cops - specifically in an interview that appeared in the Sunday Times in 2009 where they spoke out about what they claimed was the atrocious treatment of their daughter at the hands of the Italian police.

Their case is up for hearing on 4 July so that gives them some time to prepare thier defence which they will need - unless they want to join their daughter in an Italian jail. In Italy libel is proscuted as a criminal offence and under Article 596 of the Italian Criminal Code those found guilty of libel can be imprisoned for up to a year of face a large fine.

US war on Wikileaks heats up

While Julian Assange awaits the outcome of his extradition fate, the wider Wikileaks war is heating up over in the US. While the State Department is scrambling all of its darkest forces to compile a conspiracy case that would see Private Bradley Manning (who is suspected of leaking confidential material to Wikileaks) banged up and (if they had their way) Assange beheaded, a court in Virginia is being asked to trample all over free speech and Twitter through seeking to force it to disclose details of anyone who may have tweeted anything to Wikileaks.

The BIG irony for the US is that it prides itself on its glorious First Amendment and free speech as well as being the arbiter for what the rest of the world should be doing - so it goes and condemns the shaky and shaken middle east as well as far eastern regimes for suppressing free speech and communication BUT the US is at the same time seeking to do exactly the same thing in its attempts to force Twitter to give up details of those that tweet and express themselves.

The US has moved from Watergate to Wikigate and is not sitting on the moral high ground on this one.


Libel lies - has Beckham been denied justice?

David Beckham had his day in court cut short after a US judge dismissed his £15m libel claim against In Touch magazine. Becks was suing over a story that he supposedly bedded prostitute Irma Nici. The fact that Beckham had been thousands of miles away on the night in question made no difference to the case under US libel law which does not concern itself with whether or not a story has been fabricated but focuses on whether malice can be proved. So a somewhat different approach to UK law - maybe one to consider as part of the libel law reform - sure the press would not complain! So according to Judge Real because Beckham is famous reports about him are fair game even if they are untrue and as no malice was proven against In Touch the case would be dismissed. Bet Becks wishes he had gone forum shopping (if the magazine had appeared in the UK). As for poor hounded Irma Nici's first amendment rights to free speech it seems as long as her lies are not malicious she can carry on peddling them...in the US - the German courts don't tolerate such nonsense and have already ruled in Beckham's favour on the same matter.


Judge flings flying sausage case out of court

Surreal scenes at Chelmsford Crown Court as judge declares: “The case is stale, if not the sausage.” The Telegraph scores the best legal news story of the day with its report about an assault case involving a flying sausage!

In dismissing the case of the rogue sausage he observed that if he entertained the case it could among other things damage the dignity of the court. The sausage it would seem has not been on the scene of the alleged crime from the outset but only later put in an appearance! - priceless.

US to target Twitter in bid to bag Assange

As reported in the Sydney Morning Herald US prosecutors are stepping up their bid to bag Assange and are seeking to force Twitter to disclose the details of those who might have Tweeted with Assange and/or Wikileaks. This will prove interesting as the scale of the order the prosecutors are seeking from the court is globally reaching and as such will pose equaly global jurisdictional challenges - one to watch!

Will The Guardian's flirtation with Wikileaks come back to bite?

It all seemed to be a mutually agreeable crusade for free speech when the Guardian set out to assist in publishing of the Wikileaks documents that have caused so much upset and culminated in Assange fighting extradition to Sweden.

But not so, his love-in with the paper was short-lived and now that he seems quite happy in a courtroom, Assange is repeating his threats to sue the paper over the Wikileaks book it published.

More on this from Stephen Glover in the Independent - not that the Indy is gloating too much over this.


Sarkozy manages to alienate the entire French judiciary

As reported in the Guardian and elsewhere, French President Sarkozy has been accused of using a particularly gruesome murder case that has dominated the headlines as an excuse for having a go at judges for being too lax with sentencing.

Sarkozy seeking to make political capital out of a high profile murder case - surely not?

Well whatever his motives, his actions have spectacularly back-fired and he's got the majority of the French magistrates and the judiciary out in protest against him. It is never wise to make an enemy of a judge, let alone the majority of the judiciary - who knows when he might need them to be on side? - we have seen what can happen when the tables turn when one looks at Berlusconi deciding he can yet again take on not just the Italian prosecutors but the entire legal system and constitution and somehow prove they are all wrong and he right.

Mediabeak suspects that for Sarkozy there will still be a few rounds to go and he needs to pull off some quick remedial work to get out of the hole he has dug himself. As for Berlusconi and holes, will leave that to the Italian prosecutors to sort out.


PCC hopes papers will follow guidance on prominent apologies

The PCC has today released its guidance on the prominence of online apologies and critical adjudications in relation to newspapers and magazines.

This has long been a much debated and equally derided topic with many complainants (and their lawyers) feeling outraged that a front page splash which turned out to be wrong was only met with a small apology buried deep in a newspaper on into a website.
We'll start off by giving the PCC its say about the new guidance before we look at some of what's gone before...

The new guidance:

This tackles a series of practical points that editors should take into account when considering the prominence of online corrections and apologies - such as giving consideration to linking back to the original article, the length of time that the correction or apology should remain online, tagging, and the amendment of URLs if necessary. The guidance also looks at publication of upheld adjudications issued by the PCC.

In its Guidance Note the PCC sets out what it considers to be pointers as to giving "Due Prominence" to an apology or correction - these are:
"•Negotiation is a key part of the PCC process, and discussion between complainant, editor and PCC will be necessary in the placement of online - as offline - corrections and apologies. Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Code states: "in cases involving the Commission, prominence should be agreed with the PCC in advance".
•Readers will access information on newspaper and magazine websites via different means (such as searches or links), so there is not automatically a correlation between the original location of an article and the placement of a correction or apology. The existence of a paywall may impact on how a site is initially accessed, and this should be taken into account. However, for stand-alone corrections and apologies, editors should give consideration to appropriate placement on the relevant section where the original article appeared (such as the "news" or "showbusiness" section, for example).
•If the resolution to a complaint is a stand-alone text (an apology, correction or letter), it will generally be appropriate to link to the original article under complaint (should it still be published online) and for the original article to link back to it. If the original article has been removed, then how long the apology, correction or letter should remain online should be the subject of negotiation with the PCC.
•Corrections or apologies that appear on the original article should be clearly marked.
•If the outcome of a complaint is that the text of the article is significantly amended, then consideration should be given to the publication making explicit reference to the existence of the alteration. How quickly the text has been amended will be a factor in this consideration.
•Care must be taken that the URL of an article does not contain information that has been the subject of successful complaint. If an article is amended, then steps should be taken to amend the URL, as necessary.
•Online corrections and apologies should be tagged when published to ensure that they are searchable."

In relation to publishing with due prominence the outcome of adjudications the new guidlines provide:
"•As with corrections and apologies, consideration must be given to the adjudication appearing in the relevant section of the website. This can be discussed in advance with the PCC.
•If an article has been found to be in breach of the Code by the PCC, it should either be removed from the archive and replaced by the adjudication, or a link to the upheld adjudication should be prominently displayed on the article itself. This can be discussed in advance with the PCC.
•The adjudication, when published, should be tagged to ensure that it is searchable."

Research conducted by the PCC and displayed in its annual report for 2009 shows that in 2009, 84% of PCC-negotiated corrections and apologies appear on the same page or further forward - or on a dedicated corrections column - as the original transgression. So far so good but while these statistics might be encouraging in relation to where the correction and apologies appear, they do not measure the extent to which they were 'duly prominent' on their respective pages.

Lets look at what's really been happening

Example 1 - Peaches Geldof

The Star splashed its front page with 'Peaches: spend night with me for £5,000'- this clearly suggested she was offering sex for money BUT when one got to the actual article it merely asserted that she was receiving fees to attend celebrity events.
The PCC adjudicated on the case and described the misleading headline as 'sloppy journalism'. The paper didn't agree to publish a prominent retraction - i.e. on the front page so Peaches sued and it took a libel action for the Star to apologise in the High Court and agreed to pay costs and substantial damages.

Example 2 - Geri Halliwell

Geri Halliwell is among the few to have secured a truly duly prominent apology - this time the Daily Star probably considered the wider implications of enraging the former Spice Girl (given the paper's owner was a fan of that band) - it produced a wonderfully grovelling full front page apology. Though the paper didn't just get away with that, it also had to pay out a five figure damages amount to Halliwell.

Example 3 - Kate and Gerry McCann

The Press stooped to collective new lows in their blaket coverage of the plight of Kate and Gerry McCann who among others eventuall sued Express Group for libel in relation to 110 articles which appeared in the Daily Express, the Daily Star, the Sunday Express and the Star on Sunday between September 2007 and February 2008 - in August of 2007 there was seldom a day when The Express did not run a McCann story on their front page. Their lawyer told the High Court: "The general theme of the articles was to suggest that Mr and Mrs McCann were responsible for the death of Madeleine or that there were strong or reasonable grounds for so suspecting and that they had then disposed of her body; and that they had then conspired to cover up their actions, including by creating 'diversions' to divert the police's attention away from evidence which would expose their guilt [. . . ] Many of these articles were published on the front page of the newspapers and on their websites, accompanied by sensationalist headlines."

Express Group Newspapers finally apologised for publishing "extremely serious, yet baseless, allegations and agreed to pay a reported £550,000 in damages to the Madeleine Fund (set up to publicise and fund the search for Madeleine McCann). Following the apology and statement of regret in open court, the Daily Express, Daily Star, Sunday Express and Sunday Star also published front page apologies to the McCanns.

Other cases

The Mail on Sunday apologised to the actress Brooke Shields in 1998 after wrongly reprting that she had been searched for drugs at an airport. In 2001 the Sunday People published nude shots of Radio DJ Sara Cox on holiday with her husband. The paper issued a three paragraph apology a week or so later but proceeded to sue the paper and finally won a significant privacy win in June 2003.

So it is to be hoped that the PCC's guidance will help pave the way for acceptable corrections and apologies but Mediabeak says don't be fooled, a mere apology is not going to make the lawsuits go away and if anything is more likely to be something that is part of the wider settlements negotiated pre-court or ordered in court.