The trial of Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson

The charges against Brooks include conspiracy to illegally hack voicemails, and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. Coulson, who went on to become communications officer for British prime minister David Cameron, had charges of conspiracy relating to phone hacking and alleged illegal payments to public officials.

The jury in the phone hacking trial delivered verdicts on most counts, including all charges faced by former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks and one against former NOTW editor Andy Coulson. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. shut down the tabloid in 2011 after the scandal erupted amid reports that staff at the paper had hacked into people’s voicemail messages to get scoops.

The jury found Brooks not guilty on all four counts she faced and found Coulson guilty on one charge of conspiracy to hack phones. The trial judge asked the jury to consider the fact that there were only 12 confirmed voicemail hacks while Brooks was editor and for none of them was there an email, a note or a witness that mentioned her name in connection with the practice. The jury has not yet returned a verdict on two additional charges against her and former royal editor Clive Goodman of conspiring to commit misconduct in public office by paying officials for royal phone directories.

Jury found Coulson, who also used to work as communications director for Prime Minister David Cameron, guilty on a charge of conspiring to hack phones while working at the tabloid that used to be part of the U.K. newspaper arm of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Coulson also used to serve as communications director for British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Coulson, 46, faced up to two years in prison, but his lawyer earlier this week argued that circumstances “do not justify the maximum penalty”. He argued that Coulson did not know that hacking was illegal. Defendant lawyer told the court that there was no evidence presented by the prosecution that Coulson knew about the hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone or that he was aware of the tasking of Glenn Mulcaire in 2002 to gather information about the missing teenager. 

Brooks was found not guilty of being part of a phone hacking conspiracy, one count of conspiracy to pay public officials. An argument arose on the charge Brooks was acquitted of: bribing public officials. Email evidence showed that on 11 occasions while editing the Sun, Brooks approved payments for stories that were sourced from a Ministry of Defence civil servant, Bettina Jordan-Barber. Legally, for Brooks to be guilty she had to know and agree that the cash was going to a civil servant. Not inquiring may be questionable but it was not a crime. The judge had instructed the jury to find her not guilty of another such charge and two counts of conspiracy to “pervert the course of justice.”

The jury found Brooks’ husband, Charlie, not guilty, former Brooks assistant Cheryl Carter not guilty and former News International security expert Mark Hanna not guilty. Stuart Kuttner, former managing editor of the tabloid, was also found not guilty.

Kuttner was found not guilty of conspiring to hack voicemail messages, while Charlie Brooks, Hanna and Carter were cleared of charges of conspiring to “pervert the course of justice.” They face no further charges.

The trial, which started in late October and ran for more than seven months, focused on charges of phone hacking, conspiring to “pervert the course of justice” and bribery against seven defendants. The jury ended up having 11 members after one juror was discharged earlier in the year.

Advertisements

Mooting tricks and tips

A moot is a mock trial without witnesses involving argument on legal points of law before a moot judge. This is done within a court setting involving a hypothetical case on appeal from a lower court.  There are two sides (appellant/respondent) with two mooters on each side (senior/junior counsel).  The moot problem can be on a variety of legal areas (e.g., criminal law, contract, torts, land law, equity & trusts, landlord and tenant law, etc). There are certain tricks which might help to improve mooting ability.

  • First of all, it is better to hide feelings. A perfect mooter does not show their poker face, which will give the opponent the upper hand automatically. Also it is advisable not to make faces or sigh when opponent is speaking or when the judge delivers the judgment.
  • A good mooter always tries to read the judge’s expression. If the judge is not likely expressing a positive expression, it is better to move on to the next argument. If there is no stronger argument it is better to finish the submission.
  • It is always advisable to make notes during the mooting. Moreover senior or junior counsel may want to deal with opponent’s arguments in to their submission and use the note. If there are right to reply, this might help to save time.
  • In the event of running out of time, one must make sure that he have put forward the main and strongest arguments. Student can also ask the judge for permission to have extra time, however run over the allocated time without permission can decrees marks.
  • It is better to know the cases well. One should make notes of all the cases relying upon and know them properly inside out.
  • The most important skill in mooting is the ability to defend arguments against judicial challenge, which is expected to be challenged. This test the limit of one’s argument and ability to think deeply. The most important think to remember is that, if someone have thoroughly prepared, that is their opportunity to shine. It is ok to take time to formulate the response, a few moments may be but not a minute or more. The quality of the response is what counts more. The judge will be impressed on a confident response, rather then a response in which you ramble and have not thought about.
  • In order to support the arguments, student should cite the supporting authorities. Students normally should cite cases from the law reports, quoting short extract from judgments where directly relevant. Cite should be in full form. It is very important to run through how you actually read a citation out loud before the big event. This can sometimes get a bit tougue–tied. Screwing up the citation can sap the confidence significantly.
  • Mooting is a formal event and student should treat it as such. It is advisable to arrive early, set out papers, dress formally. Male students should wear a dark suit with a discrete tie. Female students should wear a dark coloured trouser or skirt suit or a dress. Student might even be asked to don a robe. Arriving late can make people more nervous and make them already in the back foot.
  • It is better not to read from the script. Good advocacy involves being able to think deep and delivering the arguments persuasively. Reading from a script will not allow the student to engage with the judge. Anyone can read from a script, but there is much more to being an advocate than this.It’s a good idea to have written out an opening phrase, a few key points and a great closing line, so that you give the impression of being in control.Student should never interrupt the opponent. It will definitely irritate the judge and make the student look like arrogant. The only time student should interrupt oppositions, when opponent materially incorrectly states the facts.
  • At last after delivering all the quality arguments effectively, there should be a strong finish. This must show that what student argued does make sense and supports his side.

Confidentiality and the employer-employee relationship

The law has long recognised that an obligation of confidence may arise out of particular relationships. In this blog I am going to emphasis on the relationship between employer and employee.

The general rules of the law of confidence will apply to the employee and employer relationship. According to the case Megarry J in Coco v AN Clark Ltd (1969) there are three elements which will normally be required for a breach of confidence action to succeed. These are;

(a)the information must have the necessary quality of confidence about it;

(b)the information must have been imparted in circumstances where the confidant ought reasonably to have known that the information had been imparted in confidence;

(c) there must be unauthorised use or discloser of that information to the detriment of the party communicating it.

However, the relationship between employee and employer also gives rise to a number of particular problems concerning the use of information.

In the context of employment, where the parties are linked by a contract of employment, the duty of confidence is founded on that contractual relationship. In the absence of any express term, an undertaking bt the employee to serve his employer with ‘good faith and fidelity’ will be implied into the contract of the employment (Robb v Green). Duty of confidence during the course of employment is a central aspect of the general duty of good faith or fidelity. (Faccenda Chicken Ltd v Fowler). In certain limited circumstances, an employee may make preparation while he is employed on order to compete with his employer after he left. However, these will not include taking away a card index file of customers (Roger Bullivant Ltd v Ellis), or soliciting customers on the final day of employment in order to set up a rival milk round. It has also listed that it is wrong to memorise lists of names of customers for later use. On the other hand, merely recalling information rather then memorising will not be restrained (Coral Index Ltd v Regent Index Ltd)

In Faccenda Chicken Ltd the Court of Appeal reviewed the general principle behind breach of confidence cases involving employees. In this case an employee left his employment with know how concerning the fresh chicken trade of his employer. He started up in competition using this know how. Court held that trivial information, easily accessible information and employee ‘know-how’ are not protected as trade secrets. Trade secrets are so confidential that there is a duty even with out a contractual agreement to keep them secret after the end of the end of the employment relationship. A trade secret is information that would cause real harm if it were disclosed to competitor and the owner had limited its dissemination. To determine whether the information is to be regarded as trade secret one must look at the nature of the employment, the nature of the information and whether the employer impressed upon the employee the confidentiality of the information. In addition, whether the information can be easily isolated from other information the employee is free to disclose are important issue to be considered.

The duty of good faith and fidelity owed by a former employer is not as great as the duty owed by an employee during his employment. In post employment the implied term will cover the obligation not to use or disclose trade secret, but it will not cover all the information acquired by an employee during the course of his employment. That means it will not cover information which is ‘confidential’ in the sense that it would be a breach of an employee’s duty of good faith to disclose it while he is employed. While the defendant was clearly not entitled to take a copy of the instructions away with him, ‘in so far as he carried them in his head’, he was entitled to use them for his own benefit or for the benefit od a future employer. In other words, those information had become part of his general knowledge or know how. For example, this year one of the technician from Redbull f1 team moved to McLaren f1 team, and used information to build up a front wing for his new employer, which is similar to Redbull.

Defamation and Internet Publication

In this blog I am going to describe the English law in relation to defamation and internet publications.

Section 1 of the Defamation Act 1996 provides a defence for a person who can show that, (1) (a) not the author, editor of publisher of the statement, (b) took reasonable care in relation to the publication, (c) did not know and had no reason to believe, that what he did caused or contributed to publication of defamatory statement. Under S.1(3) a person shall not be considered the author, editor or publisher of a statement if he is only involved —(e) as the operator of or provider of access to a communications system by means of which the statement is transmitted, or made available, by a person over whom he has no effective control.

The Act extended to operators of communications system such as an internet service provider, or twitter, or Facebook and other social network side. In those systems the quantity of material posted is too high, that means that they may have limited awareness of what is being added to the system. However, where an operator receives notification of a defamatory statement, and fails to remove it promptly, it might be liable for further republication. In the case of Godfrey v Demon Internet [1999] 4 All ER 342 Godfrey, an internet service provide was accused of posting of an academic paper full of inaccuracies and errors claiming Godfrey as the author. This was a defamatory publication because would lower Godfrey’s reputation as academic and scientist. Godfrey informed ISP that he was not the author and asked them to remove the publication from the website. Demon failed to remove the posting. Court held the internet service provider was not a ‘publisher’ of material posted on a Usenet if unaware of defamatory statement. However, as soon as he had been made aware of the statement that service provider became a ‘publisher’ and could not claim under the defence under s.1 Defamation Act 1996.

Godfrey raised a problem for newspaper and other media that maintain archives of their material. Such material would normally be available on the organisation’s internet site. The court of appeal has held that a claimant may sue for libel for material published on an internet site even if the action is brought more than one year after the initial publication according to the limitation period under s.4 of the 1996 Act. This principle was held not to be in breach of Article 10 as it was not disproportionate restriction on freedom of expression. Archive maintenance did have a social utility but this was a comparatively insignificant aspect of freedom of expression. This decision was supported by the European Court of Human Rights in Times Newspaper Limited v United Kingdom (2009). It was held unanimously that a court’s finding that Times Newspapers Ltd had libelled G.L. by the continued publication on its internet site of two articles was not a disproportionate restriction on the newspaper’s freedom of expression, as guaranteed by Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights. In Metropolitan International Schools Ltd v (1)Designtechnica Corporation (2) Google UK Ltd & (3)Google inc. [2009] EWHC 1765 it was held that internet search engine provider not to be regarded as ‘publishing’ material located on an internet search including “snippets” which appear in response to that search. In Payam Tamiz v Google inc [2013] EWCA Civ 68 Court of Appeal held that internet service provider that allowed defamatory material to remain on a blog hosted on its platform for five weeks after it had been notified of a complaint might have become a publisher of the material. However, probable damage to claiment’s reputation over a short period was so trivial that maintenance of libel proceedings could not be justified, in which website moves to remove defamatory material is significant when deciding upon liability of website.

In the new Deformation Act 2013 introduces two new defences for online publishers. This is a recognition of the unique nature of online publication and an apparent attempt to place more responsibility on the authors of web posts, a group who (with a few notable exceptions) have until recently been fairly confident of their untouchability. Section 5 of the 2013 Act Creates new defence for website operators, who can demonstrate that they were not responsible for posting the material on their website. Defence can be defeated if C can show: (a)Not possible to identify original poster,(b)C gave operator notice of complaint,(c)Operator failed to respond according to procedure set out in regulations. Procedure:(1)C must send Notice of Complaint to website operator setting out details of defamatory post, (2)Website operator must acknowledge receipt within 48 hours, (3)Poster has 5 days to respond from day notification sent to him, (4)If Poster fails to respond website operator must withdraw post within 5 days, (5)If Poster responds consenting to removal, operator must do it within 48 hours of receiving communication, (6)If poster objects to removal website operator must pass on details to complainant.

This Section brought about the biggest changes in dealing with defamatory online posts. The aim is to introduce an efficient mechanism for dealing with comments posted by users of blogs and social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The primary purpose of these provisions is to reduce the costs in identifying an anonymous poster.

About myself

My name is Ismet Zaman, and currently i am studying law in a university in London. Apart from studying law i am also interested in photography, international politics and painting. I am also involve in sports like football, snooker, basketball and cricket.