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Matrix Judgments & Commentary

Matrix’s Legal Support Service produce summaries of cases that Matrix members are involved in, which you can find below. You can browse these through the search function on the right.

High court determines ‘Taming of the Screw’ article to mean claimant committed serious misconduct as a prison officer

Hamilton v News Group Newspapers Ltd [2020] EWHC 59 (QB)

This case involved the determination of meaning as a preliminary issue for a libel claim. The claimant was, for a period of months in 2017, a prison officer at Her Majesty’s Prison, Wandsworth. She brings an action for libel and misuse of private information against the publisher of The Sun newspaper in respect of an article published in the print edition of The Sun for 28 February 2018 under the heading, “Taming of the Screw – Jail officer quits after lag ‘fling’”, and a similar online article.

Held: The central, natural and ordinary meaning of each article, in my judgment, is this: “the Claimant committed serious misconduct in her role as a prison officer by engaging in an emotional and physical relationship with an inmate.

High Court declines to hear Bitcoin libel claim due to pending proceedings abroad

Wright v Granath [2020] EWHC 51

In a judgment handed down on 16 January 2020, the High Court has declined jurisdiction over a libel claim arising from the disputed identity of “Satoshi Nakamoto”, the pseudonym used by the founder of digital cryptocurrency Bitcoin.

Applying Article 27 of the Lugano Convention (which regulates jurisdiction over civil cases as between EU member states and EFTA states), the Court judged that proceedings issued in Norway by the English defendant before the English proceedings began involved the same cause of action. As such Article 27 required that the English court took the proceedings no further. The judgment offers guidance as to the application of international jurisdiction rules in the context of libel claims.

Court finds breaches of rights of former Yukos executives over second trial and also rejects several complaints

Khodorkovskiy and Lebedev v Russia (No 2) (Applications nos. 51111/07 and 42757/07)

This case concerned the second trial of former executives of the Yukos oil company, Mikhail Khodorkovskiy and Platon Lebedev. During the trial, the judges refused to call several witnesses for the defence and rejected requests for finance and oil market specialists to come and testify in the applicants’ favour on the expert reports which had been part of the prosecution case. The applicants complained under Article 6 (right to a fair trial), mentioning the trial court judge’s lack of impartiality and independence, a lack of confidential contact with their lawyers; the taking and examination of evidence; and a breach of the presumption of innocence. They also complained under Articles 7, 8 and Article 4 of Protocol No 7.

The Court held unanimously that there had been breaches of the applicants’ right to a fair trial under Article 6 (1) and Article 6 (3) (c) and (d) of the European Convention on Human Rights because of the trial judge’s refusals to allow the defence to examine prosecution and defence witnesses and to submit important expert or exculpatory evidence. However, the Court unanimously found no violation of Article 6 (1) concerning the independence and impartiality of the trial judge and no violation of Article 6 (2) (presumption of innocence) with regards to comments during the trial made by Vladimir Putin, prime minister at the time.

By five votes to two, the Court held that the applicants had suffered an unforeseeable application of the criminal law to their detriment, in breach of Article 7 (no punishment without law). It unanimously held that there had been a violation of Article 8 (right to private and family life) because of a lack of long-term family visits when the applicants were on remand before the trial. The Court unanimously held that there was no need to examine the applicants’ complaints under Article 18 (limitation on use of restrictions on rights) in conjunction with Articles 6 and 7 and Article 4 of Protocol No. 7 (right not to be tried or punished twice), and, no violation of Article 18 in conjunction with Article 8.

Samira Ahmed wins equal pay claim against the BBC

Samira Ahmed v BBC

Equal work An employment tribunal held that the work done by Jeremy Vine on Points of View and Samira Ahmed on Newswatch was equal work. The tribunal held that the work of Samira Ahmed and Jeremy Vine when presenting their respective programmes was ‘like work’ i.e. work that is the same or broadly similar. The […]

IPT rules by a majority in favour of MI5 in a case raising “one of the most profound issues which can face a democratic society governed by the rule of law”

Privacy International & Ors v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs & Ors IPT/17/86/CH, IPT/17/87/CH

The claimants, all non-governmental organisations, challenged a policy which they submitted purports to ‘authorise’ the commission of criminal offences by M15 officials and agents. They alleged this policy was unlawful, both as a matter of domestic public law and as being contrary to the Human Rights Act 1998, Sch 1.

The Tribunal dismissed the claim. It found that the Security Service does have the power to undertake the activities which are the subject of the policy under challenge as a matter of public law. This did not mean that the Security Service has any power to confer immunity from liability under either the criminal law or civil law on either its own officers or on agents handled by them. The Court held that it was clear from the wording of the policy that it does not confer any immunity from criminal prosecution on anyone. There is nothing improper or unlawful about the Security Service having such a policy. The oversight powers given to the IPC now, and previously to the ISC, do provide adequate safeguards against the risk of abuse of discretionary power. The Tribunal wasn’t convinced that the claimants had standing to rely on Convention rights and Convention rights didn’t arise as a matter of substance.