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Archive for the ‘McKennitt v. Ash +’ Category

Eady Monbiot’ed…

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

You don’t expect Guardian columnist George Monbiot to mince his words, and the meat of what he’s saying is delivered entirely uncut today, when he writes about Mr Justice Eady’s “reign of terror” and “a government of frightened little men”, particularly in the shape of Jack Straw, the Minister of Justice.

Although it may not come as news to us, the list of Eady’s, erm, achievements is quite astounding, and their ramifications even more so: US state after US state is now refusing to accept libel verdicts delivered in English courts, for example.

It will be interesting, to put it mildly, to see what happens when (rather than if) one of Eady’s judgements reaches the new Supreme Court (which has recently replaced what used to be known as “the Law Lords”). It’s obvious from the instances Monbiot lists that many judges senior to Eady are getting increasingly alarmed at his findings.

The Guardian gagged

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

This, from today’s Guardian newspaper, is worth quoting quite extensively.

Today’s published Commons order papers contain a question to be answered by a minister later this week. The Guardian is prevented from identifying the MP who has asked the question, what the question is, which minister might answer it, or where the question is to be found.

The Guardian is also forbidden from telling its readers why the paper is prevented – for the first time in memory – from reporting parliament. Legal obstacles, which cannot be identified, involve proceedings, which cannot be mentioned, on behalf of a client who must remain secret.

The only fact the Guardian can report is that the case involves the London solicitors Carter-Ruck, who specialise in suing the media for clients, who include individuals or global corporations.

Those of you who have followed Pressylta postings on McKennitt v Ash (for the past few millennia, it seems…) will be intrigued to find out what fresh doo-dah has been cooked up by our learned friends this time. So will I.

Three minutes later: The utter nonsense inherent in these gagging orders becomes only too obvious once you’ve entered the relevant keywords into Google… I now know everything about something I would have known nothing about, had Carter-Ruck not acted the way they did. That’ll learn’em. Or maybe not.

Later p.m.: And so the gag has been lifted: for further info follow the links Fredrik provides in the comments. There is in law, as we know, a particularly thin line between the outrageous and the ludicrous. Outfits like Carter-Ruck have made an art form out of strutting that line, while looking murderously serious at the same time. If you ever wondered what a “PR disaster” looks like, look no further.

Greenslade: “Eady must not hear so many libel actions”

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

Roy Greenslade, ex-Mirror editor and media blogger for The Guardian, also writes a Wednesday column for the London Evening Standard. Today, following the Desmond v. Bower trial, where Greenslade was a witness for the defence, he writes an unusually critical piece on Mr Justice Eady, a piece which is lent all the more weight by the fact that Greenslade has tried to be scrupulously fair to Eady in the past, both agreeing and disagreeing with his various judgements (McKennitt v. Ash “profoundly” in the latter category, as he says).

The Desmond v. Bower case

Monday, July 27th, 2009

Richard Desmond’s libel case against Tom Bower was – unusually – resolved in the defendant’s favour last week. Roy Greenslade summarises the issues involved in Media Guardian today.

Greenslade aside, there are one or two other shades of McKennitt v. Ash, too. One is the controversial role of Mr Justice Eady, who was twice overruled on admissability by the Appeal Court, in the strongest of terms. Another one is the peripheral-but-crucial role played by Benjamin Pell, a.k.a. Benji the Binman (pictured left; read Matthew Bell’s piece in the Independent today).

I had the pleasure of meeting and, not so much talking as listening to Benji during McKennitt v. Ash, especially in the later stages in 2006. He is a most extraordinary character and, despite his many eccentricities, I know a lot of media lawyers have a lot of time for him, and for his encyclopaedic knowledge of media, privacy and defamation law. If and when Benji ever has his day in court against Richard Desmond, I for one will book a ticket to the public gallery forthwith.

Panorama on developing privacy law

Monday, June 15th, 2009

Panorama, the flagship documentary strand on BBC1, tonight broadcast a piece by Clive Coleman on press freedom and “developing privacy law“, and Pressylta highly recommends it. Should you be able to figure out how to watch it online, do do.

One thing struck me, a very minor thing, but nonetheless: the law firm Schillings seem to be the most aggressive (in letter-writing terms) when it comes to killing investigative stories in their infancy, at least if you listen to Ian Hislop of Private Eye. What happened to Carter Ruck, though? Gone soft…?

Incidentally, one day I’ll post something here on the fine art of passive-aggressive letter-writing, as practised by libel and privacy lawyers. Amazing stuff. Grammatically incoherent, usually, but amazing stuff.

Greenslade on libel and Eady

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

The controversies surrounding libel law in England are hugely important and wide-ranging and, although the issues are different from the “developing law on privacy”, the two areas overlap in significant respects, not least to do with CFA’s, or no-win-no-fee arrangements. Roy Greenslade writes a very useful column on the subject in the Evening Standard today, well worth reading, not least because it relates Mr Justice Eady’s (rather modest, as it turns out) fears regarding freedom of expression…

Hislop on privacy

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

There were a number of people at the time who doubted – or even denied – that the McKennitt v Ash verdict, and similar cases subsequently, would contribute to increased restrictions on freedom of expression, and specifically freedom of the press. Reading, in particular, what Private Eye editor Ian Hislop had to say to a Parliamentary hearing yesterday might provide food for thought. Among other things, Hislop was able to show that a perfectly legitimate journalistic investigation had been stopped in its tracks by a letter from law firm Schillings “invoking the developing law on privacy”.

Allow me to get up on this high horse just here, and say that those of us who feared this would happen take no pleasure whatever in being proved right…

Max Mosley cracks the whip again

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

Our old friend Roy Greenslade writes (in today’s Evening Standard) about his fears of an approaching privacy law in the UK, this following Max Mosley’s appearance before a Parliamentary Select Committee hearing on press and privacy yesterday. As Greenslade shows, one of the striking things about practically any form of privacy legislation is how completely unworkable they would be: what Mosley has suggested does in reality amount to prior restraint. Which of course is an SBT, a Singularly Bad Thing.

On which subject: proponents of increased privacy rights in the UK, such as Desmond Browne QC, often argue that fears of privacy legislation are misplaced, because Parliament has already introduced such legislation in the form of the European Human Rights Act. But that argument is itself misplaced, it seems to me, precisely because the ECHR is not a privacy law.

My criticism, and others’ too, of the McKennitt v. Ash verdict, for example, was that it struck the wrong balance between Article 8 and Article 10, much too much in favour of the former. It is in striking that skewed balance between the two that a form of privacy law is being introduced, and by an unelected body, i.e the judiciary.

Mr Browne on privacy law

Monday, December 15th, 2008

Desmond Browne QC, the barrister who acted for Loreena, is also Chair of the Bar Council, and as such he has now – not unexpectedly, perhaps – spoken out in defence of Mr Justice Eady’s various judgements in recent privacy cases, primarily Max Mosley. Today’s Guardian report is here.

Dacre, Mosley, Eady

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

The backlash against Paul Dacre’s speech continues with Max Mosley in fine and righteous, whiplash form in The Guardian today. Some of Mosley’s criticisms are spot-on, of course: the Mail’s main contribution to national life is the incessant stoking of middle-class paranoias, the high priestess of which is Melanie Phillips. If the Daily Mail was a person, they’d really, really need to talk to someone.

But some of Dacre’s points still carry weight, even in Mosley’s case. The son of Sir Oswald Mosley is filmed during an S&M session, and his “tormentors” are dressed in German uniforms and speaking cod German – only a Martian and a high court judge could find no hint of Nazism whatsoever in that set-up…

But there are of course even stranger examples of Mr Justice Eady’s findings in McKennitt v. Ash. And one day I hope to return to them in more comprehensive form.


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