Friday, 1 October 2010

Media Law - Online Lecture 1 (Raw Notes)

Themes and Ideas

Influencing the jury can result in a jail sentence of up to 10 years

Contempt of court - "Failure to respect the court can compromise the course of justice, potentially causing a mistrial or compromising the integrity of a trial. As a result, contempt is treated very seriously."

Journalists in the past have served sentences for for breaching these terms.

As an alternative to being issued with a jail sentence, fines can also be issued.


In 2002 The Sunday Mirror was forced to pay £75,000 for contempt of court by Lord Justice Kennedy and Mrs Rafferty.

The paper published an article that arguably led to the collapse of a £10m trial of Leeds United footballers Lee Bowyer and Jonathan Woodgate.

"The Sunday Mirror's decision to publish an interview with the family of the Asian victim of the attack while the first jury was still considering its verdicts resulted in the collapse of the trial."


"A false accusation of an offense or a malicious misrepresentation of someones words or actions"

Proving what you have said is true is a sure defence.
There is a risk of being sued.
Compensation payments in lible can reach into the millions.

Famous case - Elton John
Sued the sun for £1m, 2005.
It's important to remember that Journalism and law are very closely related

The law is a constraint on what we can do as journalists
e.g the law of defamation

This law in particular has a 'chilling' effect on the types of allegations one can make against others.
Stories and articles must be shaped and constructed in a way that makes them legally safe

Privacy legislation
Data Protection legislation

Journalism is 'intimately related' to human rights

E.g Political violence, corruption within various 3rd world countries. These countries have no free press!
Press expose corruption / wrong doings.

The law is divided into 2 main branches

Civil Law - Regulates conflicts between civilians. Not of much interest to society as a whole. Deals with contracts, commerical contracts, libel, divorce, landlord and tenant issues, neighbour disputes etc.

E.g - The case of Diane Blood

Criminal Law - Crimes against society as a whole, the whole of society for example is damaged by murder. Deals with crime.

Criminal law is more likely to grab the publics attention in terms of articles and broadcasts, however a famous celebrity involved with a case of civil law may also be of interest.

Industrial Tribunals - Ultimately regulated by the civil courts

Standard of evidence in criminal cases compared to civil cases:

In a criminal case the standard of proof must be 'beyond reasonable doubt'. Prosecution must be absolutely sure an individual committed a crime. The consequences of loosing a criminal case is severe punishment e.g. heavy fines, imprisonment. As the outcome is so severe, it's important all doubt surrounding the case is absent.

Magistrates court - Lowest level of court in the criminal justice system. The magistrate will record if the individual is pleading guilty or not guilty.

Crown court - There is a jury here, unlike in the Magistrates where there is not. If you lose in the Crown court, an individual has a right to appeal.

County court - Less news-worthy. Regulate disputes between citizens. E.g - A local authority trying to evict tenants. Eviction orders must come from County courts.


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