Monthly Archives: October 2012

Online abuse and harassment: criminal remedies

The irresponsible publication of inaccurate, abusive or private material online can give rise to a number of different civil causes of action. The most common of these are libel, harassment, misuse of confidential information and breach of the Data Protection Act 1998. The application of the latter three is a relatively new development in law. However, arguably the more significant change in the landscape is the identity of the prospective defendant; that is the ‘publisher’. 15 years ago the term publisher would nearly always refer to the traditional press or publishing companies. There was no Twitter and little blogging. The old media was careful. If a newspaper libelled someone it could be sued. If it made too many mistakes it could go out of business. Today we are all publishers. setting up a website or a blog no longer requires any expertise. social networking is widespread; 30 million Britons – half the population – use Facebook, 10 million tweet. The majority of this new breed of publishers is sensible and law-abiding. However, there is a sizable minority who are not. A blogger or social networker may be driven revenge, passion, hatred and/or prejudice. They may lack judgement and/or be labouring under the misapprehension that the right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the ECHR means that they can say whatever they want. The damage done by online publishing can be extreme. The world wide web does exactly what it says on the tin; upload and you publish to the whole world. Despite the size of the internet, an unintended consequence of the efficiency of search engines is that offending publications can quickly appear at the front of the haystack.

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Daily Mail and Daily Mirror fined for contempt of court over Milly Dowler reports

The Daily Mail and The Daily Mirror have each been fined £10,000 by the High Court over articles they published on 24 June 2011 following the conviction of Levi Bellfield for the murder and abduction of Milly Dowler.  At the time jurors were still deliberating over a separate count – the attempted kidnap of Rachel Cowles.  As a result of the ‘avalanche’ of seriously prejudicial adverse publicity the jury had to be discharged.

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Jury award Frankie Boyle £54,650 following libel victory

Comedian Frankie Boyle has succeeded in his libel claim against MGN Limited, the publishers of The Daily Mirror.  Mr Boyle had sued The Daily Mirrorover an article that alleged he was a ‘racist comedian’ and had been ‘forced to quit’ the BBC Mock the Week show.

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Supreme Court confirms courts have power to strike out dishonest claims after judgment

In Fairclough Homes Ltd v summers [2012] UKsC 26  The supreme Court overturned a line of authorities and held that a claim could be struck out after trial or even after an assessment of damages if it subsequently transpired that it was dishonest.

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Information Commissioner investigates legality of police’s retention of mobile phone data

Christopher Graham, the Information Commissioner, has told a parliamentary committee that his office is investigating whether police forces are breaching data protection laws by retaining data downloaded from suspects’ mobile telephones.

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Lord Chief Justice voices concern over increase in litigants in person

Lord Judge has raised his concerns over the increasing number of litigants in person appearing in the courts.  The number of litigants in person has risen significantly in the last year and is expected to increase further following the implementation of reforms to the costs and legal aid regimes in April 2013.

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