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    Saturday, 31 October 2009

    Give it back!: Lords debate proposed rules on criminal memoirs

    On Thursday, the House of Lords concluded its report stage debates on the Coroners and Justice Bill (a-v; hansard transcript). This comprises a smorgasbord of reform, with many measures affecting the media in more or less significant ways. Much attention was focused on the Government's plan to allow the recovery of monies made by convicted criminals through the media exploitation of their stories.

    The proposal, which the Government accepts will apply in only a very small number of instances, was criticised as 'gesture politics', and its compliance with Convention rights questioned. Ultimately, the amendment was defeated on a vote, and the measure remains part of the Bill.

    Also during the report stage on the Bill, Baroness Miller (col1302 et seq) moved a further amendment that would have limited the power of the police to retain photographs taken of unarrested or uncharged protestors, photographers and others in public places. The measure would have applied to both police Forward Intelligences Teams (FIT) and other evidence gathering exercises. The amendment was withdrawn.

    [Photo 1 seemed appropriate, but is in fact the cover photo for a recent novel; Photo 2 - (c) Marc Vallee]

    Friday, 23 October 2009

    Commons debate on super-injunctions

    The House of Commons held an adjournment debate on the matter of libel law and super-injunctions on 21 October. It was introduced by Liberal Democrat MP Evan Harris. A transcript and film can be accessed here.

    The earlier debate to which some MPs refer was focused on 'libel tourism' and took place in December.

    Wednesday, 21 October 2009

    Anatomised injunction: Guardian publishes Trafigura order with notes

    The Guardian has published the order which was at the heart of the recent 'super-injunction' story, along with notes explaining various of its components. It also has a range of pages dedicated to offering its take on the matter.

    The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, has also commented on the use of super-injunctions, noting that their use should be sparing, but that there is a continuing justification for them in some circumstances. This is obviously correct. Despite the wails of band-wagonners, sometimes disclosure of the fact that an interim hearing has occurred and that an injunction has been imposed would allow observers to put two and two together so as to guess at the nature of the injuncted information. Disclosure of the fact of the injunction would defeat the purpose for which it had been imposed. That's not to say the courts should perpetuate their use willy-nilly.

    Tuesday, 13 October 2009

    Opening Justice: new guidance on reporting restrictions

    The Judicial Studies Board has published new guidelines on the imposition of reporting restrictions by the criminal courts. The guidelines are an attempt to reconcile the principle of open justice with the imperative of securing the fair administration of justice. They were written in large part by barrister Guy Vassall-Adams of Doughty Street Chambers in collaboration with the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, and representatives of the Society of Editors, the Newspaper Society, Times Newspapers Ltd, Trinity Mirror plc, the Press Association and Reuters.

    The new guidelines are very welcome. Media companies had been increasingly concerned that judges were often imposing unwarranted restrictions on their freedom to report court proceedings in ignorance of the limits of the powers available to them. It will be interesting to see how far the new guidelines stem the flow of legal challenges to restrictions imposed.

    Monday, 12 October 2009

    The truth will out, and how...

    Opinion will be divided on the extent of the loss to the listening public caused by the untimely death of Stephen Gately (all condolences to his friends and family of course), but comments in a few newspapers have highlighted a fairly typical tabloid ploy:

    ... Accordingly, Gately didn't come out of his own free will. In 1999, the Sun approached him with a story sold to them by a former Boyzone security guard, alleging the singer was gay. After two weeks of talks between the tabloid, Boyzone's management, their record label and PR, the Sun ran with a different exclusive: "Boyzone Stephen: I'm gay and in love". "Three weeks ago, Boyzone's Stephen Gately asked the Sun to help him come out," claimed the paper's editorial, imaginatively. [Alexis Petridis in the Guardian]