An American journalist issued the Daily Telegraph with a writ for libel after it published a lengthy apology for “errors” in her article about Melania Trump. Nina Burleigh’s writ accused the Telegraph Media Group of “capitulating abjectly” to a legal threat from a lawyer known as a “slayer”, and had wrongly turned her into “a poster girl for fake news”.
The writ detailed how the paper apologised – without consulting her – for statements the article did not contain, and for fact-checked and well-sourced material. It gave a detailed breakdown showing how the apology allegedly misquoted the original article.
Read the writ here.
The 24-hour shutdown of Gatwick Airport, caused by a drone, became a media law story when a man and woman were wrongly arrested for causing the havoc – and their names were widely published. The Mail on Sunday splash headline read: “Are these the morons who ruined Christmas?”
One commentator quoted by Press Gazette said their case had echoes of the coverage of the arrest of Sir Cliff Richard, for which he was awarded £210,000 damages against the BBC. He was never charged. The case reshaped the landscape regarding privacy and media freedom.
In a Guardian blog, Professor Roy Greenslade said the affair was reminiscent of the case of Christopher Jefferies, the innocent man who suffered character assassination in the media after being briefly detained in connection with a Bristol murder. But he also noted the public interest in disclosure.
The same Press Gazette report quoted Gill Phillips, the Guardian’s director of editorial legal services, warning that privacy claims were now taking the place of defamation cases – with smaller but still punitive costs involved. Privacy cases offered no defence of truth, and ambiguity over the potential defence of public interest.
Couple wrongly arrested over Gatwick drone chaos could have ‘strong’ privacy claim against newspapers in wake of Sir Cliff ruling
Couple in drone incident hit out at media coverage of arrest but press point to police farce
MPs repeat call for ‘Cliff’s Law’ to stop suspects being named before charge after Gatwick drone front pages
The press ruins Christmas for former drone suspects – Roy Greenslade
Sir Elton John and his partner were awarded substantial damages over a national newspaper report that said their dog attacked a child, causing serious images, and that they had not asked about her recovery. The story proved to be wrong. Read more
Former columnist Katie Hopkins was said to have entered into a voluntary arrangement – often used to avoid bankrupcy – after being ordered to pay heavy damages and legal costs over libellous tweets. She had refused an offer to settle the case with a £5,000 payment to charity. Read more
The Independent Press Standards Organisation introduced an arbitration scheme in November 2017, as urged by the Leveson Report, to enable members of the public to complain against publications without the prohibitive expense of going to court. Complaints cost £50 up front and another £50 if they go to a final ruling; but publishers found “guilty” face paying out up to £50,000 (still far less than a libel case might cost). Complaints under the Editor’s Code remain free. Read more from IPSO here.
Claimants in libel cases do not have to prove they have suffered serious harm in order to win, a judge has ruled. They merely have to argue that the words used are seriously harmful, said the judge in a case involving a divorcing couple. This reverses previous understanding of the protection given in the 2013 Defamation Act, reports UK Press Gazette. Read more
There are also links to various legal commentators’ views at the Inforrm blog, published by the International Forum for Responsible Media, here
The Sunday Times successfully used the defence of responsible journalism on a matter of public interest to fend off a libel claim by former MP Tim Yeo, who had been the subject of a sting. The politician must pay more than £400,000 in costs. Read more
The new “serious harm” test for libel in England and Wales has discouraged frivolous claims, say campaigners: but with the Scottish Parliament refusing to adopt most reforms in the 2013 Defamation Act, Scotland is now being used as a back door for libel action, they say. The Glasgow Herald has complained of a “chilling effect on press freedom”. Read more
Publishers could have to pay costs for both sides in defamation cases even if they win, if Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 is enacted. Along with “no win, no fee” actions, this could have a severely chilling effect on the ability of regional publishers to defend actions, says the HoldTheFrontPage law column. It could be challenged on human rights grounds, it says. Read more