Libel judges face a tough time in the media
Mr Justice Eady, eminent libel judge and newspaper hate figure, has thick skin. Speaking at today’s Justice conference on free speech and privacy, Eady quoted snippets from newspaper articles accusing him of ‘moral and social nihilism,’ ‘arrogance,’ ‘immorality,’ and to top it off, ‘amorality’.
He was dismissive of the insults, directed at him for ruling in favour of claimants in libel actions against different media organisations. ‘The media have nowhere to vent their frustrations other than through personal abuse of the particular judge who happens to have made the decision,’ he said. ‘Certain individual judges, of course, have been singled out for the treatment – much to the innocent amusement of colleagues and friends.’
Eady’s point is that, in having to carry out the ‘ultimate balancing exercise’ between competing human rights, there will naturally be those who feel aggrieved when the balance is tipped in favour of the other party. If this is a media organisation, they attack the judge who ruled against them. But the solution for the media, he said, is not to attack those who carry out the balancing exercise, but instead challenge the balancing role given to judges by parliament.
It’s not completely clear whether he means this tongue-in-cheek, à la ‘let’s just do away with centuries of judicial tradition then, shall we?’ or whether he really is goading newspapers to challenge conventional judicial process in libel and privacy cases. I would suggest that it’s the latter, but if so, then it’s not clear how parliament could ever allow such a move in the field of human rights. After all, the rights balancing exercise undertaken by UK judges is a consequence of the European Convention on Human Rights, a higher form of law than any act of parliament. The right to freedom of expression, and the right to privacy, have equal status. Surely, then, only the repeal of the Human Rights Act and explicit denunciation of the convention could achieve the result he suggests?
If this analysis is correct, then Eady will have to deal with increasingly creative expletives for some time yet.
- Who will be our Lehman Brothers?
- Data protection: one cheer for Grayling
- Coming soon – fixed defendant costs in PI
- Review of regulation? Let’s fire the LSB for a start
- How to save criminal legal aid
- Conspicuous consultation
- Criminal justice ignorance
- Back to the drawing board on DBAs
- What’s so bad about privatising our courts?
- Woolwich, crime and mental health
- Privatising the courts
- ‘Christmas tree’ bills
- AXA says what we all think on referral fees
- Airports: four decades of cancellations is enough
- Bringing back the death penalty
- Judicial tension over costs budgeting
- Britain’s fragile legal legacy
- Facebook and flexible friends
- ‘Going to court was worse than the abuse’
- Our only certainty is uncertainty
- A blow to EL claims
- SRA right to raid compensation fund - for now at least