On Camera - Televising our courtrooms - the debate

They have arrived in the Supreme Court. The Government proposes  allowing them in for sentencing. Has the time come for cameras to be allowed into all of our courts?

Here Simon Bucks puts the case for cameras, and Jon McLeod the case against…

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Inside a secret world

The Court of Protection has been accused of being overly secretive. Elizabeth Cleaver examines recent cases where  the media has been allowed to attend

The new Court of Protection was set up in 2007 to take important decisions for those who lack the capacity to do so for themselves. These issues include where the patient should live, who should manage their finances and what medical treatment they should receive. Prior to 2007 the Court of Protection was part of the Office of the Public Guardian but these are now two separate bodies. It was felt that more clarity was needed concerning day to day decision-making for the most vulnerable members of our society. These decisions are of paramount importance to the patient and can be of the most private nature. Although Court of Protection cases are normally heard in private some recent cases have raised the question of publicising them.

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Preventing the Expansion of Media Empires

What is a media monopoly in this country and how did Rupert Murdoch get permission to buy the rest of BSkyB? Matthew Cook examines competition law in respect of media ownership

Amid the present controversy over hacking at the News of the World, concerns have once again come to the fore about the size and role of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire and the power that this gives him over British politicians and the British public.  The position is very different from a few months ago when it looked likely that News International would be given permission to extend its media empire in the United Kingdom still further by acquiring the rest of BSkyB (in which it presently has a 39.1% minority interest), subject only to a condition that it should dispose of Sky News.

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WestminsterWatch - October 2011

I’m ready for my close-up: Toby Craig and Charles Hale mull over cameras in courts

The debate over cameras in courts has been rumbling on for about as long as that on goal-line technology in football. It has often seemed that the more we talk about it, the further we are from any resolution. In fact, historically, the only thing we could be sure of was that we would keep arguing about it. In a modern world of 24-hour news, smart-phone cameras and the prevalence of social media, opening up the justice system for all to see might seem a no-brainer - in New Zealand for instance, you can now stream live trials via the internet to help the winter evenings fly by - but is it? It is all too easy to paint this as a dispute between anachronistic fuddy-duddies and forward-thinking modernisers (which a Sky News led campaign has sought to do), but in reality, the issue is far more delicately balanced, even if the technology is now all available.

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Libel Reform: is it in the public's interest?

Gray’s Inn was the setting for a stirring debate on libel reform in January. The timing was perfect. The Coalition Government was due to publish its draft Defamation Bill and Nick Clegg, only days before the debate, set out the Government’s commitment to libel reform, saying: “Our aim is to turn English Libel laws from an international laughing stock to an international blueprint”.

Chaired by Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, the five panellists covered a wide range of issues including: access to justice; the impact of libel reform on UK tabloids; how should libel law draw a distinction between the defamation claims against a blogger with a dozen readers and the defamation claims against a newspaper with millions of readers?

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Time for libel reform?

Libel law “is tilted against the media” but there is momentum for improvement, Lord Steyn said when delivering the 3rd annual Boydell Lecture.
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“Super-injunction” Committee

The Master of the Rolls has set up a committee to examine the issues around injunctions that bind the press, including “super-injunctions”.

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The Changing Role of the Press

Siobhan Grey discusses the Gray’s Inn Seminar on press freedom and the Select Committee Report “Press Standards, Privacy and Libel”

The incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights into English domestic law has had a dramatic effect on the perpetual conflict between media freedom and media intrusion into private life; a conflict which is unremitting and which sometimes seems irreconcilable. The rights enshrined in art 8 (respect for private life, including reputation) and art 10 (freedom of expression, including press freedom) are of equal value, but how can a judge strike a fair balance between them? This dilemma has been given greater urgency by the technological developments that are changing the face of the media. An injunction obtained in one national court in one jurisdiction can quickly be rendered ineffective by the new virtual, stateless and unregulated chaos of information exchange, as the Twitter campaign in the recent Transfigura case revealed.

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Duncan and Neill on Defamation

Sir Brian Neill, Richard Rampton QC, Heather Rogers QC,
Timothy Atkinson, Aidan Eardley
LexisNexis, 3rd edition (Aug 2009), £195.00, ISBN 978-0406178312

Since the first edition of Duncan and Neill in 1978 the libel landscape has changed dramatically and looks set to continue doing so. Juries are no longer “in the position of sheep loosed on an unfenced common, with no shepherd” as Lord Bingham famously described them. More detailed directions are now commonplace and jury awards correspondingly smaller than in their zenith in the 1980’s; to the considerable relief of the popular press.

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Patents County Court reforms

The financial limit of the Patents County Court (“PCC”) should be set at £500,000, according to the Judiciary Working Group on Reform of the PCC.  The recommended limit, which is higher than originally proposed, follows a consultation by the Working Group on PCC reforms.   The Working Group has now also suggested a limit on recoverable costs at £50,000 for all types of claim, but limited to £25,000 for inquiries and accounts. It also recommends that guidance is given on the contents of statements of case and the criteria for the transfer of cases between the PCC and the High Court. The potential reforms follow concerns that the PCC is not providing an affordable forum for intellectual property litigation for SMEs.

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