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Privacy injunction statistics published by Ministry of Justice as part of new pilot scheme

March 19th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Legal

On Thursday last week the Ministry of Justice published a new report of “experimental” statistics relating to the processing of privacy injunctions at the High Court or Court of Appeal. This follows a recommendation by the Master of the Rolls committee.

The statistics relate to injunctions dealt with in any civil proceedings in the High Court or Court of Appeal in London where the court considers an application for an injunction prohibiting the publication of private or confidential information, the continuation of such an injunction, or an appeal against the grant or refusal of such an injunction.

The report shows that from August to December last year there were four proceedings in the High Court which “considered an application for a new interim injunction”, three where the court “considered whether to continue or amend an interim injunction which had previously been granted” and two where the proceedings involved a consideration of “whether to issue a final, permanent injunction”.

The statistics do not cover injunctions arising from proceedings dealing with family issues, immigration or asylum issues, to proceedings which raise issues of national security, nor to most proceedings dealing with intellectual property and employment issues.

The four applications for new interim injunctions were all said to have been granted by the court.

At the Court of Appeal one further proceeding was also recorded involving “an appeal against a grant or refusal of an interim or final injunction”.

According to the International Forum for Responsible Media (Inforrm) blog, which has looked at the statistics in more detail here, “none of these cases appear to have involved threatened media publication” as “no media defendants were joined”.

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Ministry of Justice to reduce success fees in defamation cases

March 4th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Legal

The latest on changes to libel and defamation, from the Ministry of Justice:

Justice secretary Jack Straw has taken action to lower the maximum success fees that lawyers can charge in defamation cases from 100 per cent to 10 per cent.

Straw’s Statutory Order amends the Conditional Fee Agreements (CFA) Order 2000 and is subject to approval from Parliament.

Full release at this link…

The Ministry of Justice has also published responses to its ‘Controlling costs in defamation proceedings’ consultation. More than 53 per cent of 57 responses were in favour of reducing maximum success fees.

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NUJ general secretary calls on coroner to allow blogger into court

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has called upon the Isle of Wight coroner to allow a banned blogger into his court.

As we reported yesterday, Simon Perry of the VentnorBlog – a site that has been publishing local news for over four years – was refused entry, both as a journalist or a member of the public, to the Isle of Wight coroner’s court on Tuesday (23 February).  Perry has been a member of the NUJ for over nine years.

While parts of a small number of inquests may be held in private for reasons of national security, in this instance the hearing was public – and the local newspaper journalist was allowed to stay.

NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear has written to the Isle of Wight coroner’s office expressing “grave concern” at the decision to ban Simon Perry, Journalism.co.uk has learned.

“The principle of open justice is vital to any democracy,” said Jeremy Dear. “Any journalist will tell you that the right of the public to know what happens in a coroner’s court is fundamental to a free society.

“I’m glad that Simon Perry regards this serious incident as a matter for his union, the NUJ. We will certainly pursue the issue vigorously.”

Over nine years of NUJ membership “would surely point to me not being fly by night,” Perry told Journalism.co.uk yesterday.

When Journalism.co.uk contacted the coroner’s court yesterday, the official did not wish to comment, but confirmed that the Coroner had made a statement once VentnorBlog had left the room.

The Ministry of Justice guide to coroner and inquests says (available via this link):

All inquests must be held in public in accordance with the principle of open justice, and so members of the public and journalists have the right to, and indeed may, attend (although parts of a very small number of inquests may be held in private for national security reasons). Whether journalists attend a particular inquest – and whether they report on it – is a matter for them. If any such report is fair and accurate it cannot be used to sue for defamation.

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‘Greater media scrutiny’ needed for family courts, says MoJ

January 21st, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Journalism, Legal, Newspapers

New legislative proposals in the Children, Schools and Families Bill should “encourage” media attendance at family court cases, the Ministry of Justice has announced.

In a release, the MoJ cites evidence that media attendance has been limited since access to family courts was first granted in April 2009.

The study shows that, from a survey of court staff:

  • 25 per cent said journalists had attended hearings at their court since the rule change
  • 15 per cent said journalists had attended hearings only once and did not come back
  • 11 per cent said that media attendance had led directly to an article being published
  • Other issues highlighted by respondents included the importance of clear guidelines for staff and media, accessible court lists and extra seats in courts.

Full release at this link…

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Share your views on defamation and the internet

November 19th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Legal

Writetoreply.org, a site which allows users to comment on public reports, has uploaded (unofficially) the Ministry of Justice consultation, Defamation and the internet: the multiple publication rule (see Journalism.co.uk report here).

The consultation was published on the 16 September 2009 and closes on 16 December 2009. WritetoReply will send all the comments received on its site to the Ministry of Justice.

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Guardian tribunal decision is ‘outrageous’, says FOI campaigner

June 15th, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Journalism, Press freedom and ethics

The Guardian has had its four-year campaign for the release of information about misbehaving members of the judiciary rejected by a Freedom of Information (FOI) tribunal.

The paper had been working on the request since 2005, reporter Rob Evans told Journalism.co.uk in March, and was challenging ‘secret justice’ and asking for a more accountable judiciary.

“We are trying to create a precedent for this kind of information to be released. In the past the government has always kept it as a kind of secret. They have always been very reluctant to release information about naughty judges,” said Evans as the case went to tribunal.

But today the tribunal, led by David Marks QC, ruled in favour of Justice Secretary Jack Straw and suggested that releasing information on when judges, magistrates and coroners had been disciplined could be disruptive to courts and the legal process.

The tribunal was ‘”impressed” by the Ministry of Justice’s argument that judges were entitled to a “reasonable expectation of privacy”‘, according to a report in the Guardian.

“This is an outrageous decision. Judges are highly paid public servants whose conduct in court and, to an extent, out of court must be above reproach,” Evans told Journalism.co.uk today.

“It is fundamental that the public should know how complaints against judges are resolved and the reasons why particular judges have been reprimanded or sacked. Why is Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, covering this information up? He seems to have learnt nothing from the MPs expenses’ debacle.”

The ministry has said it will be more open about the sacking of judges in the future as a result of the Guardian’s campaign. However, taking the full FOI request any further would entail high court action – an expensive procedure.

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‘Accredited media’ not yet defined, Ministry of Justice tells Journalism.co.uk

December 17th, 2008 | 4 Comments | Posted by in Journalism, Legal, Online Journalism

UK Justice Secretary Jack Straw’s proposals to ‘lift the veil,’ and open family courts to the media, bring with them a range of issues, as discussed by the Telegraph’s Joshua Rozenberg.

One of which is the question of what defines the category of ‘accredited media’? Will it include online-only publications, for example?

Journalism.co.uk rang the Ministry of Justice to find out what will constitute ‘accredited media’. A spokesperson said it is currently ‘being decided’ and will be announced ‘once rules are finally agreed’. “It is part of the decision making process,” he said.

What’s the time-frame? Journalism.co.uk asked. Along with other parts of the proposal, final rules will be established by April 2009, the ministry spokesperson said.

As Rozenberg commented, this is a significant part of the proposals. Rozenberg wrote:

” … Mr Straw does not seem to have given enough thought to what constitutes the modern media.

“If I decide to write about legal affairs on my own website, am I a freelance journalist who should be allowed access to the courts or a blogger who should not? And who is to decide?

“Mr Straw’s officials pointed out that press seats at criminal trials are allocated by court officials. But those denied such seats can usually attend as members of the public. That option would not be available here.

“Journalism is not a profession, in the sense of an occupation with controlled entry such as law or architecture. Anyone can call himself or herself a journalist. It is therefore essential that the final decision on who may attend the family courts as a journalist is one for the courts themselves, not officials.”

(Hat tip to Jon Slattery, who also flagged up the issues on his blog.)

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