Thursday, 3 March 2011

Catherine Hayes Photography

Check out my photography portfolio!

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Can I really be happy?

Happiness. Something everyone wants. So when I spotted Paul McKenna's 'I Can Make You Happy' sitting on the sale shelf in Sainsbury's, I thought 'why not?'. I mean, he sounds pretty confident doesn't he? I don't consider myself a particularly unhappy or depressed person, but if this man knows the secrets behind happiness, I damn well want to know too!

The book comes with a complimentary hypnotherapy CD, narrated by Mr McKenna himself. I'm all for gimmicks, so before reading a single word I popped the disc into my laptop, stuck my headphones on and awaited the magic of happiness. In the first few minutes McKenna explained that the purpose of the CD is to send you in to a trance and not the sleep. Well, that's funny. Three hours later, I woke up groggy and disorientated - not quite the refreshed, invigorated feeling he'd promised.

Despite the unsuccessful first attempt of hypnotherapy, still intrigued about obtaining ultimate happiness, I settled down with the book and delved in to the first chapter. Suddenly his title is not so convincing. Apparently he can't get rid you of all pain, difficulty, irritation or suffering in your life and neither can he make you permanently ecstatic all day long every day. I started to wonder exactly what I paid for! On top of that, some people McKenna has worked with didn't even notice that they were becoming happier until they looked back on their progress. Does that mean this book can only make me retrospectively happy? Great.

Right, back to the book.
Stay tuned...

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Reporting Elections

Public media has a duty to inform the public about relevant matters during the general election and to inform the public on how to go about voting. Parties and candidates have a right to airtime and to be treated fairly and indiscriminately. The media has to make sure that they give each party an equal amount of airtime to ensure that they come across as impartial.

During elections, special laws exist to protect the democratic process. Not only is there the civil law on libel which need to abided by journalists but there are also criminal penalties which may result from false statements being made about candidates. It is a criminal offence to make or publish a false statement about the character or conduct of an election candidate under section 106 of the Representation of the People Act 1983. It is also an offence to publish a false statement that a candidate had withdrawn from the election.

Journalists are not protected by any privileges when reporting what candidates have said about one another. They are still open to being sued for libel and defamation. However journalists are covered by qualified privilege when reporting public meetings and press conferences if it is done accurately and fairly.

It is an offence for anyone but an election candidate to pay the expenses for an election advert. This includes publishing an advert in a newspaper on behalf of a candidate without them being aware of it. Doing such a thing is of course going to disrupt the democratic process and bias the election. Journalists and media organisations are required to remain impartial during the election period in an effort not to bias the election.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Freedom of Information

Under their 31 year old manifesto commitment to give people a legal 'right to know', the Labour Government passed the Freedom of Information act in 2005, giving people the right to access information from public bodies.

There are now approximately 100,000 requests made every year, which costs £34m of tax payers money. This means that the public are paying for this information to be produced by civil servants, and to be disclosed on demand. These bodies are required to publish a schedule of all information, and requests should be responded to in a reasonable amount of time (20 working days). Charges apply if it requires over 4 hours of labour to retrieve information.

130,000 bodies are covered by this act, and out of the 100,000 requests per year, only 12% of these are made by journalist.

Kingsnorth Climate Protest -

In Aug 2008 climate change protesters sat a 4 week climate camp at Kingnorth power station in Kent. It was claimed in the house of commons that 70 were injures, however, when the Liberal Democrats put in a FOI request it was revealed that only 12 were injured, and only 4 out of the 12 need medical treatment.

The BBC published:
'And the then police minister, Vernon Coaker, apologised in the House of Commons for telling parliament that 70 officers were injured dealing with the protests. His comments came after it was revealed that injuries Kent Police claimed during the climate camp included insect stings, toothache and heat exhaustion.'

Although in the case, it was politicians that used the Freedom of Information Act to their advantage, most politicians hate FOI requests as it causes the 'chilling effect'. The FOI Act has resulted in politicians feeling like they can't discuss things openly which could later be revealed in a FOI request.
Politicians hate FOI requests
In his biography, Tony Blair regards the FOI act a bigger mistake than the war in Iraq

Journalists believe we are in the golden age for FOI requests. Before the act was published in 2005, everything was documented. However, because of the 'chilling effect', nothing is now being documented by civil servants.

Matthew Davis-
Matthew Davis makes a living out of FOI requests. He constantly puts in requests for all different bodies, trying to find something interesting to sell to a newspaper. His work includes an FOI request into the NHS worst hospitals based on suing statistics. This is called FOI farming. This is also an effective technique for journalists trying to find stories. In order to farm FOI effectively, it is essential to plan ahead. For example, in the run up to winter it might be advisable to plan a request about the gritting of the roads.

MP's Expenses -
The recent MP's expenses scandal was revealed by an FOI request put in by Heather Brookes. It took just over a year and half to reveal the facts. However, instead of releasing all the facts at once and allowing a bomb to go off, the Government decided to leak them so that they had control over the situation.

How to put in a FOI request -
To put in a FOI request, you need to write to the council's nominated FOI officer. An easier option is to use - a website dedicated to making and browsing FOI requests. The website list all the bodies covered by the act. The latest they can leave it to reply is 20 working days.

If they say no you can take it to internal review, then to an information commissioner, then a information tribunal, and if they still say no to releasing the information it can finally be taken to the High Court.

FOI exemptions -
There are some exemptions to the FOI Act. There are 23 qualified exemptions and these include such things as the Ministry of Defence, national security, and information the government intends to release in the future.
Confidentiality restricts FOI. For example, it would not be possible to make a request for information about a patient's health, as that information is confidential between the patient and the doctor.
Employees that earn under £100,000 per annum are also exempt from requests made about them.
If an FOI request costs too much to process, it will also be exempt.

The only defence available to these exemptions is public interest.

Monday, 13 December 2010


The history of copyright has existed since the early C18th, when privileges and monopolies were granted to publishers of books. Copyright law was reformulated in 1988 by the Copyright, Designs and Patent Act, which has been until then governed by the Copyright Act 1956. The main amendment of the 1988 Act was that copyright lasts for 70 years after the originator has died.

The purpose of copyright is to protect products of skill, labour or time. Copyright was the reason that journalism flourished, seeing as journalism as a business could not survive without it. An originator can print, publish, perform, film, or record and literary, artistic or musical material and authorise others to do so. When you sell it you surrender all your rights to ownership of that intellectual property. However, undeveloped ideas, brief slogans and catchphrases are an exception to copyright laws, and are not protected. Getting copyright wrong could cost you money, embarrassment, or your reputation.

Breach of infringement of copyright is 'making beneficial use' or exploiting someone else's intellectual work without permission.

When a new film comes out a broadcast company can use the trailer footage for a time window of approx 3 weeks.

Many will know that all the papers normally have the same headline stories. Papers lift each others stories and have done for years. Rules of fair dealing allow stories to be lifted up to a point.

Fair Dealing

We can lift the thrust of stories and quotes from rivals for the purpose of 'reporting current events'. Anything lifted must be attributed, be in the public interest and the usage must be fair. Newspapers regularly have the same stories, however normal they each take a different angle on the story than their rival.

We can also use short clips (about 3 secs) for reviewing purposes, however this is not a definite rule in fair dealing. Recently, on WINOL, we interviewed Chesney Hawkes. We wanted to use a short clip from his music video for song 'The One and Only'. To do that without gaining copyright authority, we had to use to clip for purpose of review. This meant that the presenter was required to talk over the clip, commenting on it.
Broadcast news obituaries of film stars can use famous movie clips for free

Fair dealing allows for wider reporting of stories in public interest, and criticism and review of copyright material.

Photographers are unable to take advantage of fair dealing, as it does not apply to them.

Creative Commons

Although photographers or journalists cannot lift other peoples photographs through fair dealing, there is creative commons. Creative commons issues no charge for the use of pictures, however only insists that the original photographer and their website are credited with the publication of the photograph.

The internet - youtube, facebook etc (use book)
Sports coverage - News access rights
Photographs and film archive

Points to remember
Recognise copyright issue early
Contacting rights holders takes time
Tell others if you have copyright cleared
Don't lift material without referencing up

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Defamation and Libel


Libel is the result of the combination of publication, identification and defamation. It is libel if what you write about a person, company or organsition lowers them in the estimation of right thinking people, causes them to be shunned or avoided, disparages them in their business trade or profession or exposes them to hatred or ridicule.

A person's reputation is valuable and if you are famous or holding a public office, then even more so. Some believe that their reputation is worth a lot of money. Defaming a person can damage their reputation and a claimant simply has to prove that the they might have been damaged, not that they have. The meaning of a libellous statement is tested by the understanding of it by a reasonable man or woman.

Hulton Co v Jones
In the case of Hulton Co v Jones, it is stated: 'In an action for libel it is no defence to show that the defendant did not intend to defame the plaintiff, if reasonable people would think the language to be defamatory of the plaintiff'. The defendants, owners and publisher of a newspaper, published an article about a character, that they believed to be fictitious, named Artemus Jones. The name was in fact that of a real man who sued Hulton Co and whose friends believed and testified that this article referred to him.

Newspapers and broadcast corporations face libel action regularly. There are defences that can be used to protect journalists, but in some cases these news organisations get sued for huge amounts of money.

Rahamin v Channel 4 News/ITN
In 2001 Rahamin won £1 million in damages after Channel 4 News/ITN made allegations against him accusing him of being no good at his job. Mr Rahamin maintained that a news reported aired on the Channel 4 7 o'clock news broadcast was defamatory against his professional and personal reputation. Before the report Mr Rahamin was held high in the opinion of his colleagues. their families and his patients. In 1992 he was appointed as a Consultant
Channel 4 made the following allegations against Mr Rahamin:
1. He was probably responsible for the death or serious injury of many of his patients including two that died during their operations.
2. He was not competent to practice as a consultant thoracic surgeon, he was seriously under qualified and inadequately trained.
3. He had faked his qualifications and employment history to obtain his post as a Consultant.
4. He had falsely descibed himself as an FRCS (Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons) in a letter to a local GP.
5. He had not alerted his employers to the fact that he was not able to operate safely due to injuries sustained from a road accident.
6. Because of these matters, the GMC should have struck off Mr Rahamin.
During the proceedings Channel 4 News/ITN made no attempt to dispute that Mr Rahamin was fully competent to practice as a surgeon.

'No reputation to lose'

There are some people out there that are so badly thought of that it is not possible to damage their reputation further, and therefore can't be libelled. Harold Shipman is an example of someone who can't be libelled. If he were still alive, there is nothing you could say that could damage his professional reputation anymore.
This is also true of the dead. A dead person does not have a reputation to lose and offending family members does not factor in libel.

Hazards Journalists Face

Inference -
Its is possible for a statement to hold more than one meaning, and for someone that is not familiar or learned on the subject may interpret differently or read between the lines. This is also tested by means of a reasonable man, therefore making it essential for journalists to write words which only carry the meaning they were have. Juxtaposition can also cause inference, which is a big problem for both journalists and subeditors. This is also true of footage and when editing it is essential to ensure that images juxtaposed with a voice track do not infer a libellous meaning.

Innuendo is a Latin word which means 'to nod to', where a statement points towards a meaning which only people with specialist knowledge would understand.
In 1980's a newspaper reported on former Cabinet Minister, Lord Gowrie's, 'expensive habits' and his snorting and the 'silver spoon around his neck' when he suddenly left the Cabinet. These words implied that he had a drug habit, and when he sued he received 'substantial damages'.

The Internet

Brunswick v Harmer
In 1849, the case of Brunswick v Harmer ruled that each individual publication of libel gives rise to a separate action. For the internet this could mean a separate action for each individual download (a fresh publication). In March 2009 the Justice Ministry started investigating this issue, and is due to lead to a consultation paper. This ruling causes a chilling effect on the freedom of expression and could be detrimental to the world of online media.

In 1848, Brunswick sent his manservant to collect a copy of the Weekly Dispatch, published 17 years previously, in which he believed he had been defamed, and also got a copy from Weekly Dispatch's London publisher. Back then, you were given 6 years to take action, rather than the one year that is given today. Despite this, it was ruled that these copies of the Weekly Dispatch constituted a fresh publication, and therefore gave rise to action. Brunswick was awarded £500.

Defamation in pictures

Defamation in pictures is a common danger in television. The biggest danger is the careless use of background shots in combination with voice over. The incorrect pairing of the two can lead to juxtaposition defamation where a person or company is unintentionally defamed. To an effort to prevent this, people and companies must not be identifiable (unless involved in the story) and imprecise shots should not be used.

Control of costs in defamation cases

After a report published by the Government in 2009, the Justice Minister, Bridget Prentice, aid that the effect of excessive costs could sometimes lead to defendants settling for unwarranted claims. Mandatory cost capping, limited hourly rates and requiring the courts to look at proportionality of costs are measures which have been suggested to tackle excessive costs in defamation cases.

Libel Defences

It would seem that journalist face a lot of danger, however there are libel defences that safeguard the freedom of expression.

Justification -
The defence of justification depends on statements of face which are published being true and provable in a court of law. The claimant doesn't have to prove that the published words were true; it is the responsibility of the defendant (the publisher) to prove that the words were true. The standard of proof required is equal to that of a civil case - 'on the balance of probability', rather than the standard in a criminal case - 'beyond all reasonable doubt'.

Fair comment -
The defence of fair comment protects published opinion. It has to be honestly held opinion based upon facts, or privileged material, and the subject commented on must be in the matter of public interest.

Privilege -
Absolute privilege - A journalist only benefits from the defence of absolute privilege in court reporting. It is required for absolute privilege that what is published is:
  • a fair and accurate report of judicial proceedings held in the public within the United Kingdom, published contemporaneously.
As they say, reporting must be fast accurate and fair, especially if you want to be able to use the defence of absolute privilege.

Qualified privilege - Applies to where the published information is considered important to public interest. These include things such as reports of court cases, of public meetings, of council meetings, and of police statements.

Reynolds defence
Reynolds v Times Newspaper

The Times published a defamatory article about Albert Reynolds, the Prime Minister of Ireland (1992-1994). Reynolds sued, claiming that the article was untrue, however the Times said that what they had published was in the public interest, and was a product of reasonable journalism. It is this case which the Reynolds defence is named after.
For the Reynolds defence to be raised, the materials must be:
- In the public interest
- Product of responsible journalism

A journalist does not have access to any defence when they:
  • haven't checked your facts
  • have not 'referred up' - haven't flagged it up to anyone
  • haven't put yourself in the shoes of the person or the company you are writing about
  • have got carried away by a spicy story
  • haven't bothered to wait for lawyer's opinion

A journalist should always be aware of risk when reporting and writing. In order the recognise risk, you should think about who you are writing about, whether or not they can sue, whether what your writing is defamatory and whether or not any defences could be raised.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Introduction to Law + Reporting the Courts

There are two types of law - criminal law and civil law. Civil law is a branch of law dealing with disputes between individuals and organisations. If you were sued for defaming a person or organisation, it would be a civil case. Criminal law is enforced by the government, and criminalises behaviour which is seen as wrong or damaging to individuals or to society. In criminal law each person is innocent until proven guilty, and for their guilt to be proven, the evidence has to show that their guilt is 'beyond reasonable doubt'. This is much harsher than the standard of evidence required in a civil court: 'on the balance of probability'.

The Courts -

Deal with appeals from decisions on immigration, social security, child support, pensions, tax and lands.

Magistrates Court:
The magistrates court two or more magistrates or a district judge sit on the bench, presiding over the court. The magistrates or district judge is advised by a professional legal advisor or by a clerk to the justices. Magistrates tend to require more advise as they are not legally trained.
A magistrates court deals with summary offences, committals to the Crown court, family proceedings and youth cases. Generally these are minor offences (fines up to £5,000 and imprisonment up to 12 months).

Crown Court -
The Crown court sees indictable criminal offences (trial which can go either way), appeals from magistrates courts, and sentencing. Trials are heard by a judge and 12 jury members. The Crown court deals with more serious criminal cases such as murder, rape and robbery.

County Courts -
County courts are also referred to as the small claims court and deals with civil cases.

High Court -
The High Court deals with both civil and criminal case. It is split into three divisions - Queen's Bench, Family and Chancery. Each division doesn't have it's own court, however each have their own procedures and practices. Decisions made by High Court judges can be disregarded by other High Court judges, although this happens rarely due to a tradition of unanimity.

Court of Appeal -
The Court of Appeal has separate divisions for criminal and civil. The criminal division hears appeals from the Crown Court and the civil division hears appeals from the High Court as well as tribunals and certain cases from the county courts.

Supreme Court -
The House of Lords was renamed the Supreme Court in October 2009. The Supreme court is binding of all other courts in England and Wales, and can retract earlier decisions, if it is justified.

A diagram of the hierarchy of the courts system can be seen below:

Sources of Law -

Custom -
Custom law is referred to as 'common' law. This law applies to the whole of England and Wales. In the Middle Ages, when the English legal system began, judges were appointed the 'law and custom of the realm'.

Precedent -
Decisions made by judges are recorded by lawyers. Higher courts have the ability to appeal decisions made in lower courts, and the decisions made in higher courts are binding. These decisions made become precedent for cases that follow, and build upon the common law that already exists.

Statutes -
Statute law is acts passed by Parliament. These laws are drafted and approved by politicians in the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Strict liability follows from statutory law. It is not necessary to prove intention in these cases.

Reporting the Courts -