2 comments on “Phonehacking Trial Day 3”

Phonehacking Trial Day 3

THE livetweeting of today’s proceedings conveyed the drama of events at the Old Bailey as three of the defendants all entered guilty pleas.

You can Guardian coverage here.

Daily Mail here.

The Independent here.

The Daily Mirror here.

Daily Telegraph here.

Hacked Off’s take on it here.

That’s it for now, update later tonight if any more copy catches my eye, feel free to tip me off to anything you think particularly well done. If Times or Sun staff want to lob me a link over their paywall, I’ll be happy to include it here.


Link to coverage by The Drum’s James Doleman here.

1 comment on “Phone Hacking Trial, Day 2”

Phone Hacking Trial, Day 2

EARLY post, so not all the papers are carrying their coverage yet. I will update later if they file tonight.

Day 2 was slow again and dominated by jury selection it seems, but the Mr Justice Saunders got things under way before the end of the afternoon and it was events outside court, or rather a Private Eye cover that was centre of attention.

Reported in The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Drum, and at Hacked Off.

All went for the judge’s extensive warning to the jury not to be swayed by outside coverage. not to go Googling or looking on Twitter or Facebook for items about the trial or its background.

The Attorney General’s office announced in the afternoon it would not be pursuing Private Eye for contempt. No real surprise, it was miles away from being in contempt and the judge’s remarks were a relatively mild admonition to ignore it. If he had been gravely concerned by it, Ian Hislop would have been ordered to court tomorrow to explain himself, which many a judge has done in the past to errant editors.

Still, it livened up Day 2. Prosecution opening tomorrow, which we’re told can be live tweeted.

Update, here’s coverage from The Independent, The Mirror and the Daily Express

It particularly love the line by Mr Justice Saunders warning jurors away from blogs written by politicians and actors on subjects ‘they know very little about.’ Who can he mean?

0 comments on “Five laws editors need to know better than their staff”

Five laws editors need to know better than their staff

BEING an editor places great demands on your time.

You might well have arranged training for your staff, but have you thought about your own? When was the last law refresher you attended?

You might reasonably leave day-to-day spotting of legals to your newsdesk and subs, but in some cases it is you that will be held responsible when things go wrong.

Here, briefly, are five areas of law an editor really needs to know.

1 – Sexual offences anonymity
There is now a large number of offences which give anonymity to a victim as soon as a an offence is reported and that report can be to anyone, not just police. Relatively new offences like trafficking and voyeurism are catching journalists out because they do not realise they are sexual offences.

The consequences of breach are very serious, a prosecution under the Sexual Offences Amendment Act 1992 – and the CPS will sometimes prosecute both the paper and the editor. Conviction will result in a criminal record for a sexual offence.

2 – Contempt of Court

The law isn’t new, it’s been around since 1981, but what is new is Attorney General Dominic Grieve’s willingness to prosecute.

He said when he took office that prejudicial publication was a concern and he has been true to his word in allowing prosecutions for contempt.

They can still, theoretically, jail editors for contempt (last time that happened was the editor of The Mirror in 1949 over converage of the Haigh Acid Baths Murders) Nowadays they give the editor a personal fine, as well as the paper. Fines are unlimited, but tend to be in the tens of thousands of pounds.

Publication of material which would not have resulted in prosecution five years ago, is now being being taken to court.

3 – Defamation Act 2013

Libel remains your most potentially expensive problem. The new Act will probably be implemented from summer 2014. It contains new defences and new limits on how claimants can take action against you. You and your staff need to understand the changes it introduces.

4 – Bribery Act, RIPA, Misuse of Computers

The laws we saw Leveson explore at some length. You may well be taking on young, technically adept journalists. They, and you, need to know the legal limits on use of their technical expertise in obtaining stories. Likewise, what is a bribe, who can be bribed and how to avoid a bribery charge?

5 – Copyright

The next big issue coming down the track I think. Journalists are magpies and tend to regard the Internet as a limitless source of free material, especially imagery. People posting pictures online seem to be becoming more aware of their legal rights over such material and we will, I think, start seeing actions for copyright breach in the near future for the sort of online pilfering reporters have regarded as safe up until now.

If the above has given you pause for though, I run in-house law refreshers for editors and their staff. All sessions are tailored to the individual publication concerned. If you would like to talk about training, drop me a line at davidbanksmedialaw@gmail.com

2 comments on “What must be done about the trolls on Twitter?”

What must be done about the trolls on Twitter?

Strange times on Twitter.

What seemed like a well-supported, perfectly reasonable and ultimately successful campaign to make sure at least one of our banknotes has a woman on it (apart from the Queen) has been slightly overshadowed by rape threats made to one of the women who launched it.

Caroline Criado-Perez became the subject of a hateful campaign of abuse from some Twitter users who made increasingly violent and specific sexual threats against her. The MP Stella Creasy was also threatened and other women, such as Caitlin Moran spoke of their own experience of rape threats on Twitter.

So depressing it’s hard to know where to start. But first let’s agree a few terms.

The abusive tweeters have been described as trolls, but I am not sure that is helpful. Trolling can cover a range of behaviours, many annoying, many legal, and only some going over the top and becoming harassing, distressing and illegal.

Those who enjoy trolling, suggested the reaction to the rape threat tweets was a threat to wider freedom of speech, and in effect their freedom to troll.

I think their argument is spurious. There is a world of difference between typical trolling and making a specific threat if sexual violence against an individual – Ms Criado-Perezwas told what time she would be attacked and specifically what violence would be done to her.

Freedom of speech does not encompass a freedom to threaten someone with rape – anyone who thinks it does clearly does not understand what freedom is.

The threats made were criminal offences, the police are involved now, there has been one arrest and there are likely to be more. Trials will follow in due course.

What I think is interesting is the way that once women had started talking about these threats, it actually resulted in more threats being made from multiple users creating multiple accounts for the purpose @killcreasynow was one example (suspended now, or else I would not name it and give it the publicity.

It seems that the very act of reporting abuse can trigger more abuse.

I am not for one moment suggesting that people receiving such abuse – be it sexual threats, racist, anti-gay or LGBT abuse, should not act upon it for fear of attracting more. But it appears to be a phenomenon peculiar to Twitter that talking about abuse, as well as garnering support and highlighting the issue, can also lead to one becoming more of a target, clearly adding to the distress.

Which made me ponder why and I think there might be a couple of contributing factors.

Firstly there is Twitter’s amplification effect. Word spreads fast there. abusive attacks in the real world can lead to repeat offences and copycat attacks – an offender hears of an attack and decides he will do something similar, it is a trigger. Just as the Internet unites like-minded communities of those interested in, say, knitting, football, opera, so it connects those who are interested in being abusive.

They see each other’s abusive messages and in their minds it legitimises their behaviour, or at least reduces the risk of detection and prosecution. They think there is safety in numbers.We saw it with those who took to Facebook to incite riots, those who targeted and named sexual offence victims and those who published pictures purporting to be the killers of James Bulger. It is only when the police come knocking at their door that they realise their mistake.

The question is the best, the most effective, way to respond to abuse. I’m not sure that responding and retweeting it is the most effective way to deal with it.

These abusers are very often seeking attention and so they target someone with a relatively large number of followers, or a high profile, because they crave the attention, albeit negative, that might attract.

I am not criticising the actions of those who have received abuse. I have never been the victim of such attention myself and far be it from me to tell someone what they should do late at night when they are subject to such vile messages.

The idea of an abuse button may seem attractive, and certainly reporting threatening messages should be a simple matter. But you only have to consider the vast numbers of tweets every hour of the day to realise this would be very difficult to implement effectively.

There are some communities engaged in debates so furious the abuse button would be pressed all the time. Who would begin to sift these messages for the genuinely threatening?

I think first we should see how the law deals with the present situation. Twitter accounts have been reported to the police, one arrest has been made already, other may follow. Before we ask for legislation, let’s see what existing laws can do to tackle this.

0 comments on “What do you need for the pain? Cold, hard compo”

What do you need for the pain? Cold, hard compo

THE Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee has been warned this week that the Government’s Royal Charter regulation plan could result in thousands of expensive compensation cases against local newspapers.

The Newspaper Society warned that up to 1,000 cases a year might have to go to arbitration, with each one costing newspapers thousands of pounds they can ill afford in the current economic climate.

The NS submission included a letter from Tony Jaffa, a solicitor with huge experience in advising regional newspapers, which said: “It seems to me that campaigners for reform of ‘the press’ have little knowledge of the way in which regional and local newspapers operate… I am concerned specifically about the real risk that the reforms being proposed will result in a flood of legal claims against the regional press…

“If the last 23 years of advising the regional press has taught me anything, it is that if those with complaints… think they have an entitlement to money, they will pursue such claims, irrespective of the actual merits… The current proposal for arbitration envisages a system in which the complainant has absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain by bringing a legal claim.”

He is right, and any editor who has had to deal with complaints will tell you so too.

I remember one tale told me by a regional editor, who shall remain nameless, whose paper had committed some very slight error in reporting an elderly man’s death.

The son had come in to see him to explain, at great length, how this error had devastated the family, his grieving mother in particular.

The editor was sympathetic, and apologetic and said that, of course, the paper would correct the error it had made and apologise.

“Is that all?” came the reply.

Well, said the editor, perhaps a bouquet of flowers for his mother as some small recompense for what was, after all, a genuine mistake, with no malicious intent.

“Is that all?” replied the son, once more.

A little bemused by now, the editor inquired what he felt the newspaper could do further to undo its error.

“Can you not give us something…something…for the pain?” came the reply.

Something meaning cash.

Most complaints people have against regional newspapers are not on grounds of privacy, but accuracy, and do not warrant cash compensation, but prominent correction. The Royal Charter put forward by government would have given that complainant somewhere to seek financial redress for the pain he and his family were feeling, no matter how little merit his case had. And regardless of outcome, it would have cost that newspaper money to go through that process.

If the government Royal Charter goes ahead it will be hard-pushed regional newspapers that will be feeling the pain.

0 comments on “Media law refresher/intro days in London and Manchester”

Media law refresher/intro days in London and Manchester

Law Refresher/Intro to Media Law

Tuesday June 18 and Tuesday July 16, The Space Centre, Judd Street, King’s Cross WC1H 9NT, 10am-4pm, Manchester, Tuesday, July 9, venue TBC, 10am -4pm

A one-day course covering the basics of media law that can affect anyone publishing in the UK either in print or online. It includes areas such as libel, contempt, reporting the courts, sexual offences, children, privacy&confidentiality, copyright and ethics in light of the Leveson report and recent decisions made by Parliament and the newspaper industry.

If you would like more information, or want to book a place on any of the courses, email me at davidbanksmedialaw@gmail.com