3 min read

Media law lecture -- Feb. 13 Libel law pt. ???

From last week

  • Reynolds Defence: Defence of responsible journalism on matters of real public interest.
  • Pg. 257 of Quinn
  • 10 step procedure
  • There will be something on the exam.
  • Some students have learned what all ten factors are.
  • Offer of amends
  • An honest mistake is made, publisher admits it and offers some way to amend situation.
  • Defence of innocent dissemination
  • Defendent was not the author, took reasonable care to prevent its publication and was not responsible for it.
  • Difference between general and special damages
  • General: can be proved to have resulted from the libel itself. General sum to represent losses. Up to ~£200,000 for individuals; lower for companies (they don’t have feeeeeelings.)

Questions for next week:

  • What is a §39 order?
  • What case(s) in libel law prevents political parties from suing?
  • In relation to industry code, what are the rules in identifying location of a celebrity’s home?
  • Daniel Crane
  • Who is the deputy to the attorney general?
  • What are Chatham House rules?
  • What is the main case in the law of privacy?
  • What are Article 8 and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights?

Two strands to Reynolds:

Investigative reporting


  • What is the stance of the report?
  • Is it adopting the truth of the allegations or merely reporting the allegation had been made?
  • Tone/use of language?
  • Neuberger -- qualified privilege must be without malice. I.e., if a parliamentarian breaks an injunction and reporting is done maliciously in order to defeat the purpose of the injunction, papers may be held in contempt.
  • Robert v. Gable (2006)
  • Two BNP members were accused of taking collections after a rally.
  • Reported in Searchlight.
  • Article didn’t take sides, and though there was no reflection of the response of individuals, did not matter as was information public was entitled to know (in addition to public interest) and the publication itself was neutral.

Where problems can arise

  • Wrong photographs
  • Independently check photographs -- just because it’s on Facebook doesn’t mean it’s real.
  • Reliance on tabloids
  • Not an answer to say “it’s been published elsewhere.”
  • Material outside the packaged report not matching the report
  • Graphics, the wall, underlay
  • Wallpaper — in generic images, make sure individuals are not identifiable.

Libel law reform

  • CFAs, libel tourism, clamp on free speech


  • General
  • Special
  • Nominal
  • A nominal amount is ordered: Grobolaw v. Express newspapers
  • Awarded £1 by House of Lords
  • Exemplary
  • Jury are asked to award a significant sum of money to set an example and send a message.
  • Aggravated

Other remedies

  • Injunction
  • Court order preventing publication of material
  • Rule against prior restraint
  • Basic principle of libel law is that courts are very hesitant to award pre-publication injunctions. Defendants are expected to publish in good faith and deal with libel if it exists.
  • “The truth should out”.
  • It’s important for the information to come up, and if it’s wrong, for the subject to receive damages. The priority isn’t to prevent information from coming out.
  • Bonnard v. Perryman
  • Applicant has to show they’re right.
  • Much more likely to get an injunction for privacy and confidentiality
  • §12(3) HRA 1998 -- If the court was considering some sort of relief, no such relief is to be granted before trial unless the applicant is able to show that they’re likely to win.
  • Lower test than Bonnard v. Perryman.
  • Greene v. ANL (2004)
  • Test had shifted from Bonnard v. Perryman due to HRA.
  • Ruled that Bonnard v. Perryman was still good law.
  • Statement in open court
  • If there is a settlement, claimant can ask for a statement in open court.
  • Claimant will set out nature of complaint, publisher will confirm what claimant says.
  • Rothschild v. Associated Newspapers Limited
  • Case last week -- not necessarily important (based on facts) but good judgement of court judgement on libel case.

Interface between libel and other areas of law

  • Court reporting / contempt of court
  • What does the report imply?
  • Statements at the end of the trial
  • Jury has just heard all the evidence that an individual has not been guilty, and then a paper publishes arguing that individual got off (and is in fact guilty), opens paper up to open and shut libel action.
  • Criminal law
  • Prisons, royal land, interception, police corruption, public servants, private investigation agencies
  • Privacy
  • Art 8 Human Rights Act 1998
  • Naomi Campbell v. The Mirror
  • Murray v. Express Newspapers

Protecting a Journalist’s Sources

  • A reporter must protect confidential sources
  • Cardinal sin to break
  • PCC: Journalists have a moral obligation to keep promises of confidentiality
  • Why?
  • Ensures information comes into public domain
  • Protects whistleblowers
  • Last person to go to jain was in 1960s
  • Vassell Inquiry
  • Journalists should be prepared to go to prison rather than reveal their sources.
  • The Law
  • Art 10 European Convention on Human Rights
  • Freedom of expression and freedom to impart information
  • §10 Contempt of Court Act 1981
  • No disclosure... “Unless it be established to the satisfaction of the court that disclosure is necessary in the interests of justice or national security or for the prevention of disorder or crime.”
  • Both about protecting private details and professional practice.