Tag Archives: International Forum for Responsible Media blog

Judge calls for test civil cases for phone-hacking victims

On Friday the High Court heard a number of phone hacking cases brought by a group of public figures against the News of the World, at a case management conference.

On Saturday the International Forum for Responsible Media blog reported that Mr Justice Vos suggested there should be four test civil cases “at a well-advanced stage”.

The selection is to be discussed by the claimants’ lawyers, Inforrm’s report by Judith Townend added, ahead of the next case management conference due to take place on 20 May.

Mr Justice Vos said he was most interested in finding out what happened, the extent of the interception activity, and what damages should be awarded.

He was keen to find the most time efficient way of doing this, with minimal cost: “Otherwise we will be going on forever. Some people may want to, but I don’t”.

The court had got to try a specific case and “can’t just try it in the ether”. There should be a guide as to what damages should be given in specific circumstances. For this reason, the cases selected would cover a range of issues. A trial – which would also cover generic issues – should be held at the end of 2011, or the beginning of next year.

Earlier this month News International admitted liability in a number of cases brought against the News of the World for phone hacking between 2004 and 2006.

In an announcement the owner of the tabloid said it would be making an “unreserved apology” to some of the claimants taking civil action against the title, in cases meeting “specific criteria”.

Inforrm Blog: Are celebrity injunctions really a threat to press freedom?

The International Forum for Responsible Media blog adds to the ‘public interest versus privacy’ debate this week, following the issuing of what is understood to be three so-called ‘gagging orders’ this month to prevent the press from publishing information reportedly relating to footballers.

According to reports by the national press, including the Daily Mail, the Guardian and the Press Association, concern has grown over the threat to press freedom posed by such injunctions. In the most recent case, the information in question is reportedly from a stolen mobile phone. How can the measure of being ‘in’ the public interest be applied here, the Inforrm blog asks.

In these circumstances, it is difficult to see what the press are complaining about. Is it seriously being argued that they should be free to publish information derived from stolen mobile phones? If not, then why does the injunction “raise concerns” at all? Does it illustrate a “threat to press freedom” or, rather, the unthinking press reaction to any kind of injunction – which is condemned without any kind of thought or analysis.

The press might like to consider the following question. Does the fact that there have been three privacy injunctions in August illustrate a growing threat to freedom of the press or does it show that, despite the best efforts of the PCC, certain newspapers continue to be in the market for private information the publication of which has no public interest justification?

Earlier this month, according to a report by the Daily Telegraph, Justice Minister Lord McNally said there is a “general consensus” in favour of a law that “clarifies, consolidates and removes some of the more dangerous aspects” of privacy law. But others argued that current legislation was sufficient and that a defence of public interest will often fail to stand up against injunctions preventing the publication of celebrities’ private information.

See the full post here…