Saturday, 29 June 2013

Sam McBrides expresses fears over libel veto

Read more here.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Daily Telegraph and other national publications hint at leaving Northern Ireland

Newton Emerson in the tweet above drew my attention to the report that the Daily Telegraph has hinted that it may leave Northern Ireland because of the old libel law regime. Newton Emerson also made an interesting and very Emersonian remark on Twitter: on this occasion, on the DUP's readiness to pursue publishers and social media users for libel damages:

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Twitter users who named girl that ran away with teacher may have broken the law

Twitter users may have broken the law by naming the girl who ran away with teacher Jeremy Forrest. Read more in the Guardian here.

Mike Nesbitt to introduce new libel legislation, while Paul Tweed denies lobbying

'UUP leader to introduce fresh libel legislation': headline from Irish News (£), June 27 2013.
Paul Tweed denied suggestions that he lobbied the DUP on the non-implementation of the Defamation Act 2013, as you can read in the News Letter here.

Mike Nesbitt and retired part-time judge said that the wealthy are controlling the media through libel law, available here.

Stormont Committee says new libel law not needed

The Stormont Committee for finance and personnel has been told that reform of the antiquated libel laws is unnecessary by a high-profile libel lawyer reported the Belfast Telegraph.

The Defamation Act has been implemented into England and Wales (April 25 2013) to stop the UK becoming a hotspot for libel 'tourists', removing the presumption in favour of a trial by jury in defamation cases. Libel lawyer Paul Tweed expressed his opposition to the introduction of the new law into Northern Ireland, saying it was not required.

The Belfast Telegraph continued:
Another lawyer, Brian Garrett, said he did not favour rubber-stamping all Westminster legislation, but there were areas where it should apply and defamation was one of those.
Sinn Fein's Daithi McKay said he was open to the question of whether or not there should be a presumption for trial by jury, and to the possibility of a no-win, no-fee arrangement in defamation cases.
A final note from myself that recently came to me: the conditioning of journalism by power is a real and ongoing problem. It’s something Orwell absolutely understood in his 1946 essay, Politics and the English Language. So we need to be very wary.

Read the full Belfast Telegraph article, published June 27 2013 here.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Podcast: "The most expensive tweet in history?"

The law firm Duane Morris hosts another podcast on technology law issues with Duane Morris partners Jonathan Armstrong (London) and Eric Sinrod (San Francisco). In the podcast they share insights on developments where technology intersects with the law in the EU and the U.S. 

Listen to the podcast in full here.

Friday, 21 June 2013

CPS Publishes Full and Final Social Media Prosecution Guidelines

Social media users beware: you cannot tweet with impunity. Social media has made publishing vastly easier, but it has not made publishing responsibility free. And while the law was caught sleeping, it is now clear: the criminal and civil can come after you and hold you to account. Ignorance is no defense. So take note, read the guidelines, understand the law and inform friends and family and other social media users.

Before going into the detail of the black letter law I want to do a quick recap of the events which have led up to the publication, June 20 2013 of this new legal document. [Or you can just scroll to the bottom of the page where I have indented what the full and final guidelines have said which gives YOU what YOU really need to know.]
After a number of calamitous decisions to prosecute social media users, including the famous #TwitterJokeTrial, the Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer QC announced October 11 2012 that he would initiate a process towards creating social media prosecution guidelines after prosecutors expressed uncertainty about the existing law.
On October 17 2012 Keir Starmer QC suggested that 'Facebook and Twitter could need new legislation'. Keir Starmer then announced November 13 2013 at an Index on Censorship panel discussion that the publication of the interim guidelines on social media prosecutions was only weeks away.

Northern Ireland Social Media Guidelines to be published by the end of Summer 2013

Barra McGrory QC, Director of the PPS for Northern Ireland
On May 14 2013 we learnt through Niall McCracken on The Detail that the Northern Ireland Public Prosecution Service is drafting interim social media guidance specific to Northern Ireland.

However, no dates were given for when the Northern Ireland legal document would be published. Then coincidentally on June 20 2013, the Crown Prosecution Service for England and Wales published full and final social media prosecution guidelines.

Following the publication of full guidance in England and Wales I then asked the PPS when we can expect the publication of the interim social media guidelines for Northern Ireland. I received the following response from a PPS spokesperson:
"Northern Ireland guidelines are currently under development and it is anticipated that these will be published by the end of the summer."
When published, the interim guidance document will be accompanied by a period of public consultation. This will then lead on to either, full guidance or new legislation. It is highly unlikely that new law would be produced as there is enough on the statute book to prosecute mis-users as it currently stands.

Conall McDevitt of the SDLP said on Friday 22 2013 in a communication that he favoured social media prosecution guidance specific to Northern Ireland.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

The PSNI are patrolling social media

The Detail has good coverage on the new policing habits of the PSNI in the new online world. Get some insights here.

DPP publishes full and final social media prosecution guidelines

June 20 2013, the CPS has published the full and final guidelines for social media prosecutions. The press release with a full list of links, relevant documents and guidelines can be seen here.

You can read the London Telegraph's write up here.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Olivia O'Kane responds - Should we be worried about libel Law?

In an article in the Ulster Business magazine, 'Libel law: should we be worried?' Olivia O'Kane responded at length:
"It should not have been a flat refusal. The NI assembly should at the very least reconsider halting the extension of libel reform to NI without having a proper, open and public consultation on the issue. There must be an open debate ominous NI about brining it back into line with the rest of the UK.  
The press are the eyes and the ears of society and watch as a public watchdog. Chilling press freedom of speech damages the public community at large.  

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Belfast may lose 'libel capital of the world' title to Dublin, says Paul Tweed

I've discussed Paul Tweed twice before elsewhere, both here and here and the libel and media law specialist requires mention again.

On June 5 2013 Paul Tweed asked on the Huffington Post, Belfast or Dublin to Be the Next Libel Capital of the World? With the leader of the UUP working on his private members Bill which would bring legal parity with the rest of the UK, Northern Ireland's libel isolationism and the negatives and benefits it brings could be lost. Paul explains:
"Unfortunately, the newspaper had failed to show similar concern about the fact that Northern Ireland citizens have for many years been treated differently from their counterparts in the UK in terms of access to the libel Courts. Unlike the position in England, lawyers in Northern Ireland have in the past not been allowed to act on a "no win no fee basis", nor have After the Event (ATE) insurance premiums been recoverable, thereby making it even more difficult for the ordinary man on the street to obtain access to justice. 

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Belfast High Court has issued 2 super injunctions in past 12 months

More from Jim Allister who broke the news through an Assembly Question here.
"The growth of ‘super injunctions’ is a product of the courts being persuaded to prioritise privacy rights over freedom of expression and press rights within the Human Rights Act. I am far from convinced that this balance is weighted in the right direction, particularly where it is a facility which in practical terms is only likely to be available to those who can afford it. 
Since by their very nature such orders do not sit comfortably with the transparency expectations of modern society, it is, I believe, in the public interest that information about the number and lifting of super injunctions should be known."
More information from the BBC of what a super injunction is here and below:

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Justice Minister Avoids Questions on Social Media

On may 20 2013 I put the following question to David Ford MLA in his capacity as Justice Minister for Northern Ireland:
1. Has sectarianism grown new legs through the misuse and abuse of social media? Are there effectively new online interface areas? 
2. What is the scale of the  challenge posed by social media to the PSNI? 
3. My figures obtained under FOI, relating to the number or social media incidents reported to the police, have shown exponential growth since 2010 - the number of prosecutions is also quote high. Therefore I ask, what guidelines are police using before:
i. Responding to reports of misuse and abuse
ii. Making an arrest following said report of misuse and abuse 
4. What standard are the prosecution services in Northern Ireland using before deciding to prosecute and individual?

5. What has changed since the February 5 2013 plenary session on social media regulation? 
6. Since February 5 2013 have you spoken with either Chris Grayling or Maria Miller? 
7. Of the options before you do you lean towards either: 
i. Tightening controls such as bringing in censorship measures?
ii. Bringing in new criminal controls as has been suggested by Pat Rabitte for ROI?
iii. Self-regulation and Educating people, especially young people in schools (as per here)? 
8. Do you intend to bring forward to Northern Ireland specific guidance for arrests and prosecutions relating to social media - or do you intend to use guidance produced by Keir Starmer (now stepping down from CPS)?
I received a response from the Office of the Justice Minister on June 12 2013. None of my questions were actually answered. And I won't have anyone suggest that I didn't ask them as presented above; so below is a screen grab of the original email I sent with relevant addresses redacted.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

High Court Judge makes new Social Media Law (re: Breach of Court Injunctions)

Less than two weeks after the Hon. Mr Justice Tugendhat delivered judgment on the McAlpine v Bercow Twitter libel affair (see here and here), the UK's top media and libel judge has made new law and sent out another clear message to social media users.

Namely: the internet may have made everyone a  publisher, however the internet did not made publishing responsibility free. Therefore, don't say anything on social media you wouldn't say on a print newspaper.

This time round the message from the legal mill is a little more social media-user friendly. OK, to understand things we need to go back to here on Defero Law. In that post entitled, "Is Social Media Uncontrollable?" I talked about two men who posted images of the two men who killed Jamie Bulger. This was in breach of a court order; therefore there was a legal effect to their actions (see Social Media and the Law: Know Where You Stand, my blog on the Huffington Post).

The two men were originally convicted and handed down prison terms. Now this has changed. See tweets bellow from Adam Wagner.

Full judgement available below in tweet from the Judicial Office:

This is another important step on the road to hammering out the law that governs activity on the social web. Just this time the judge has made new law that makes it clear what will happen if you publish comments online that breach a court order. And as Adam Wagner rightly said: "TAKE NOTE!"

This post originally appeared on the Twitter for Lawyers blog here.

Jo Glanville from the Campaign for Libel Reform slams the Stormont libel veto

Jo Glanville of the Campaign for Libel Reform is featured in the Irish News of June 4 2013, adding her voice to the strong dissent made by Michael Harris in the Belfast Telegraph the day previous.