Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Night Jack Blogger to be Unmasked

The BBC is reporting that Mr Justice Eady has rejected the case of a blogger to protect his anonymity. The Times wants to name the serving police officer, arguing that it is in the public interest to do so. The High Court has sided with the newspaper.

The consequences of this decision may be far reaching, and not just for Nightjack himself. The Orwell Prize winning blogger will no doubt face disciplinary action, and may even lose his job once his employers find out his identity - assuming they don't already know who he is.

But this ruling may also have implications for blog commenters who publish their comments anonymously. In theory, ISPs might in future be under an obligation to reveal their identities if required to do so as part of a legal case.

UPDATE: Hopi Sen has a stormer of a post on this subject. He's angry.

54 comments:

Anonymous said...

Kill Justice Eady, before he does any more damage !!!

tc said...

He has already been named on the Times website.

Paul said...

The Times has just named him online, Iain. I'm disgusted that the newspaper actually thinks that this is in the public interest.

Michaela said...

This is the judgment in full (in 4 parts 'cos the word limit here)-

Mr Justice Eady :


On 4 June 2009 I heard an application in private whereby the Claimant, who is the author of a blog known as "Night Jack", sought an interim injunction to restrain Times Newspapers Ltd from publishing any information that would or might lead to his identification as the person responsible for that blog. An undertaking had been given on 28 May 2009 that such information would not be published pending the outcome. I indicated at the conclusion that I would refuse the injunction but, in the meantime, I granted temporary cover to restrain publication until the handing down of the judgment, when the matter could be considered afresh if need be.

The Claimant's case, advanced on his behalf by Mr Tomlinson QC, is based both on the traditional law of confidence and upon the more recently developed doctrine acknowledging an independent cause of action arising from the improper disclosure of private information: see e.g. Campbell v MGN Ltd [2004] 2 AC 457 and McKennitt v Ash [2008] QB 73. It is suggested that The Times is subject to an enforceable duty of confidence not to reveal the Claimant's identity as the author of the blog; alternatively, that he has a reasonable expectation of privacy in respect of that information, in respect of which there is no countervailing public interest justification for its publication.

It was asserted in the Claimant's skeleton for the hearing of 28 May that his identity had been disclosed to The Times in breach of confidence. By the time the matter came before me, on the other hand, Mr Tomlinson was prepared to proceed on the basis that the evidence relied upon from Mr Patrick Foster, the relevant journalist, was correct; that is to say, that he had been able to arrive at the identification by a process of deduction and detective work, mainly using information available on the Internet.

Mr Tomlinson submitted that the thousands of regular bloggers who communicate nowadays via the Internet, under a cloak of anonymity, would be horrified to think that the law would do nothing to protect their anonymity if someone carried out the necessary detective work and sought to unmask them. That may be true. I suspect that some would be very concerned and others less so. Be that as it may, Mr Tomlinson needs to demonstrate that there would be a legally enforceable right to maintain anonymity, in the absence of a genuine breach of confidence, by suppressing the fruits of detective work such as that carried out by Mr Foster.

Mr Tomlinson's primary argument was simply that the Claimant wished to remain anonymous and has taken steps to preserve his anonymity accordingly. He says that the Defendant is fully aware of the Claimant's wish and that, in the circumstances, there is no justification for "unmasking" him, as he is entitled to keep his identity as the author of the blog private and confidential. Indeed, it is submitted as a general proposition that "there is a public interest in preserving the anonymity of bloggers".

Michaela said...

It is necessary to examine the matter more closely, however, since the mere fact that the Claimant wishes to remain anonymous does not mean either that he has a reasonable expectation of doing so or that The Times is under an enforceable obligation to him in that respect.

It is well known that the court nowadays adopts a two stage approach, when addressing claims based upon the publication of allegedly private information in contravention of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. One must ask, first, whether the claimant had a reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to the particular information in question and, if so, then move to the second stage of enquiring whether there is some countervailing public interest such as to justify overriding that prima facie right. Whereas Mr Tomlinson focused most of his attention upon the second stage, and rather took it for granted that the stage one test had been passed, Mr White QC made it clear on behalf of The Times that it was most certainly not accepted that this Claimant had a reasonable expectation of maintaining his anonymity.

The test is an objective one (both for privacy and breach of confidence) and the importance of that has recently been underlined by the Court of Appeal in Napier v Pressdram Ltd [2009] EWCA Civ 443 at [42], where Toulson LJ commented:

" … For a duty of confidentiality to be owed (other than under a contract or statute), the information in question must be of a nature and obtained in circumstances such that any reasonable person in the position of the recipient ought to recognise that it should be treated as confidential. As Cross J observed in Printers and Finishers Limited v Holloway [1965] RPC 239, 256, the law would defeat its own object if it seeks to enforce in this field standards which would be rejected by the ordinary person. Freedom to report the truth is a precious thing both for the liberty of the individual (the libertarian principle) and for the sake of wider society (the democratic principle), and it would be unduly eroded if the law of confidentiality were to prevent a person from reporting facts which a reasonable person in his position would not perceive to be confidential."
Hitherto, in those cases which have come before the courts where the claimant relied successfully upon the recently developed cause of action, in the absence of any pre-existing relationship of confidence, the information in question has been of a strictly personal nature concerning, for example, sexual relationships, mental or physical health, financial affairs, or the claimant's family or domestic arrangements. I am not aware of a case in which, as here, there is a significant public element in the information sought to be restricted. I have in mind, of course, that what the Claimant seeks to withhold from scrutiny is the identity of the person communicating to the public through his blog. Those who wish to hold forth to the public by this means often take steps to disguise their authorship, but it is in my judgment a significantly further step to argue, if others are able to deduce their identity, that they should be restrained by law from revealing it.

resurgemus said...

Iain OT but

How credible is DC criticising the creeping impact of the state when most of the dirty work is being done by Tory Councils ?

It's all very well demanding the government get out of peoples lives but day in day out Conservative councils ( and that's nearly all the country now )are implementing national directive at a petty level. ( Disabled pensioner fined for having his badge upside down ). These councils are also the ones advertising non-jobs in the Guardian.

I don't recall Livingstione and Blunkett giving Thatcher such an easy ride.

Politics is local so why are conservatives giving the government such an easy ride ?

Michaela said...

Mr White drew my attention to the case of Mahmood v Galloway [2006] EMLR 26. Mr Tomlinson challenged him to identify any useful ratio decidendi from this case, to which Mr White responded by advancing the proposition that a journalist who writes under a pseudonym for the purpose of functioning more effectively in his undercover work has no reasonable expectation of privacy in respect of his identity and, in particular, in relation to photographs which would, when published widely, reveal his identity. It seems to me that Mr White's interpretation is correct and, although the decision is not strictly binding upon me, the reasoning of Mitting J is nonetheless, if I may respectfully say so, entirely persuasive. Although the Claimant here is not a journalist, the function he performs via his blog is closely analogous. I see no greater justification for a reasonable expectation of anonymity in this case than in that concerning Mr Mahmood.

I consider that the Claimant fails at stage one, because blogging is essentially a public rather than a private activity.

When I move, therefore, to the second stage, the exercise becomes somewhat artificial. That is because I have to proceed on the hypothesis that one or more public interest considerations have to be identified which would be capable of outweighing the Claimant's right to privacy – when I have already held that no such right exists. Nevertheless, I should address the arguments raised. It is not always easy to come to a conclusion on matters of public interest on an application for an interim injunction, as Mitting J observed in Mahmood at [24], but it cannot be ignored since s.12 of the Human Rights Act 1998 requires that an overall view should be formed as to the likelihood of the Claimant succeeding at trial. Such a judgment has to be made almost always on an incomplete picture of the available evidence. But that is what Parliament intended.

At this stage it is necessary to address the background circumstances in more detail. The Claimant is a serving detective constable and his blog mostly deals with his police work and his opinions on a number of social and political issues relating to the police and the administration of justice. He expresses strong opinions about these matters including on subjects of political controversy. In particular, he has criticised a number of ministers. In so far as he has written about cases of which he has obtained direct knowledge through his police duties, it is said that he has taken particular care to disguise the information. Moreover, he has tried to make it a practice not to comment on cases which were pending or "active" within the meaning of the Contempt of Court Act 1981. Nor has he flouted any court reporting restrictions. Whether he has always succeeded in achieving these aims may be a matter of debate. Such an exercise will often involve fine questions of judgment.

Anonymous said...

well, that's me no longer commenting then. Let's hope lots of people express their opinions about Justice Eady anonymously, in the time honoured fashion.

(WV: 'culdite' - "the arse speaks"? How appropriate...)

Michaela said...

Nevertheless, on the basis of the evidence before me, it has always been apparent that if his employing police authority became aware (as it now has) that one of its officers was communicating information and opinions to the public at large about the conduct of police operations, there would be a significant risk of disciplinary action. This is recognised by the Claimant and is reflected in the evidence of his solicitor. Indeed, this would appear to be one of the main reasons why he was keen from the outset to maintain his anonymity.

My attention was drawn to the relevant Police (Conduct) Regulations. Those governing his conduct prior to 1 December 2008 were to be found in SI 2004 No 645 and those applicable subsequently in SI 2008 No 2864. The wording of the provisions differs somewhat, but perhaps not to any material extent. The relevant passages prior to 1 December 2008 were contained in Schedule 1 to the 2004 Regulations under the heading "Code of Conduct":

"Confidentiality
7. Information which comes into the possession of the police should be treated as confidential. It should not be used for personal benefit and nor should it be divulged to other parties except in the proper course of police duty. Similarly, officers should respect, as confidential, information about force policy and operations unless authorised to disclose it in the course of their duties.

General Conduct
12. Whether on or off duty, police officers should not behave in a way which is likely to bring discredit upon the police service."
Under the more recent 2008 Regulations, the corresponding wording is to be found under the heading "Standards of Professional Behaviour":

"Confidentiality
Police officers treat information with respect and access or disclose it only in the proper course of police duties.

Discreditable Conduct
Police officers behave in a manner which does not discredit the police service or undermine public confidence in it, whether on or off duty."
It may be said that the wording is in some respects woolly and imprecise. After all, it clearly cannot be intended that police officers have to treat all information "with respect" or be restrained so as not to disclose it except "in the proper course of police duties". There must be some limit. Presumably what is intended is that they should show such restraint in relation to information acquired in the course of, and connected with, their police duties. What would appear to be tolerably clear, however, is that the regulation would certainly apply to information obtained by a police officer about cases on which he is working or has in the past been engaged. It is obvious that the regulations should not be read subject to a proviso such that information of this kind may be "disclosed" or "divulged" if the officer does it anonymously or in his spare time.

Mr Tomlinson argues that if The Times were to reveal the Claimant's identity this would not only infringe his rights under Article 8 but also those under Article 10, since it would inhibit his right to impart information and ideas to the general public. It has not been argued, however, that the statutory restrictions on police officers disclosing information are not "necessary", not "proportionate", or not "prescribed by law" (i.e. that they are not compatible with the exceptions recognised in Article 10(2) of the Convention).

Against this background, Mr White submits that the obligations contained in the two relevant sets of regulations are imposed in the public interest to maintain appropriate standards of conduct in the police service. It is said that there is a corresponding public interest in the disclosure of any significant non-compliance by a police officer with his obligations under the statutory code.

Michaela said...

Moreover, it is argued that there is a general public law duty on police officers not to reveal information obtained in the course of a police investigation otherwise than for the purpose of performing public duties: see e.g. R v Chief Constable of the North Wales Police, ex parte Thorpe [1999] QB 396, 409-410, 415, 429. Failure to comply with that duty would also, it is said, justify public exposure. There is much force in the argument that any wrongdoing by a public servant (save perhaps in trivial circumstances) is a matter which can legitimately be drawn to the attention of the public by journalists. There is a growing trend towards openness and transparency in such matters.

Although Mr Tomlinson rather dismissed it, a further argument was advanced by Mr White to the effect that the Claimant's writings, being "overtly political and highly critical of central and local policing strategies", are such that the public is entitled to receive information about the author, so as to enable it to make an assessment of the weight and authority to be attached to them. Mr Tomlinson submitted that all the Claimant's readers need to know is that the author is a serving police officer. I disagree. It is very often useful, in assessing the value of an opinion or argument, to know its source. As was pointed out, for example, by Lord Nicholls in Reynolds v Times Newspapers Ltd [2001] 2 AC 127 at 205A-B, one may wish to apply greater caution or scepticism in the case of a person with "an axe to grind". For so long as there is anonymity, it would obviously be difficult to make any such assessment. More generally, when making a judgment as to the value of comments made about police affairs by "insiders", it may sometimes help to know how experienced or senior the commentator is.

Mr Tomlinson also submits that there is no public interest in the disclosure of the Claimant's identity and (echoing the language used by the European Court of Human Rights in Von Hannover v Germany (2005) 40 EHRR 1) that the publication of such information would make no "contribution to a debate of general interest".

If it were the case that the Defendant's Article 10 right of freedom of expression here is indeed conditional upon establishing a public interest (which I do not believe it is), it would seem to me quite legitimate for the public to be told who it was who was choosing to make, in some instances, quite serious criticisms of police activities and, if it be the case, that frequent infringements of police discipline regulations were taking place. Correspondingly, if the allegations and observations made by the Claimant through his blog were themselves contributing to a debate of general interest, as he undoubtedly thinks they are, I cannot see why the proposed publication in The Times would not be worthy of the same classification.

Much of what the Claimant publishes could be characterised as "political speech", since he criticises and ridicules a number of senior politicians. It is well recognised both here and in Strasbourg that considerable value must be attached to a citizen's right to express his opinions on matters of this kind. Nevertheless, constraints are placed upon the rights of civil servants and police officers to become involved in party political debate. Some such restraint may be regarded as legitimate and proportionate for reasons which are fairly obvious; namely, that for some people the discharge of public duties requires them to stand aside from the cut and thrust of such debate. Such constraints are recognised as appropriate, for example, for judges, teachers and civil servants. I sought assistance from counsel as to the precise nature of the restraints placed on police officers in this respect, but they were unable to provide much information save to the extent that it was accepted that police officers are not permitted to stand for elected office.

Michaela said...

Even though the Claimant believes that he was doing nothing wrong, he suspected that as and when his employing authority discovered his activities, he might be subjected to disciplinary action or, at least, some kind of "pressure" to limit the use of his freedom of expression.

I have drawn attention to the wording of the regulations relating to an officer's obligation of confidentiality in relation to "information", but there is also the more general prohibition against "discreditable conduct". This is a notoriously flexible concept, of course, but it might well be thought that some of the Claimant's publications would "discredit the police service or undermine public confidence in it". It would not be appropriate for me to come to any conclusion about that, but I recognise that his superiors might, at least, take that view.

It is clear from his own evidence that one of the reasons why the Claimant originally sought the court's assistance to maintain his anonymity was to protect him against disciplinary measures being brought to bear. His solicitor said in his witness statement that:

"26. Publication of the identification of the identity [sic] of the Claimant as the author of the Blog would be likely to cause him significant damage.
27. Firstly, while it appears to be true that the Force has been notified of his identity by the Defendants (in breach of confidence), the Claimant believes that if the matter is subject to publicity in the media this could lead to more serious disciplinary charges being brought – on the basis that the publicity itself might be regarded as damaging to the force and having brought it into disrepute.
28. Secondly, the Claimant has no reason to believe that his identity as the author of the Blog is known beyond his immediate supervisor and the Professional Standards Department of the Force. If this became now [sic] beyond this was group [sic], the Claimant considers that there would be inevitable disruption to his work as a detective. In particular, the Claimant is concerned that his identification as the author of the Blog might have an adverse effect on his working relationships and could make it very difficult for him to carry on his job. Some of his colleagues may be hostile to the Blog and may have objections to working with him as a result. Moreover, if his picture is published, it will also make it far harder for him to undertake the surveillance and informant handling work for which he is trained."
As he points out, his identity has been revealed to the police service by the Defendant. Even if this had not happened, however, I would agree with Mr White's observation that any such justification for seeking an injunction would be "unattractive", to say the least. I do not accept that it is part of the court's function to protect police officers who are, or think they may be, acting in breach of police discipline regulations from coming to the attention of their superiors (whose task it is to make judgments about such matters, at least in the first instance).

Steve H said...

So Eady will grant injunctions to prevent kiss n tell stories in the papers but not to protect a serving officer giving a policeman's point of view.

What a pillock!

Michaela said...

An alternative argument advanced by Mr Tomlinson is founded on the fact that now, for better or worse, the police authority does know about the Claimant's identity. In those circumstances, he suggests, there is no need for the information to be released more widely (i.e. to the readership of The Times). I do not accept that this necessarily follows. It seems to me that the public is entitled to know how police officers behave and the newspaper's readers would be entitled to come to their own conclusions about whether it is desirable for officers to communicate such matters publicly (whether there is an infringement of the disciplinary regulations or not). Of course, generally speaking, there would be no reason to publicise genuinely private matters about police officers, such as their domestic arrangements or personal relationships, but blogging is not a wholly private activity (as I have already noted in the context of addressing the arguments at stage one).

Mr Tomlinson sought to draw a distinction between the Claimant's police duties and what he does in his own spare time "off duty". That is nevertheless, in the context of a police officer, a somewhat hazy distinction. It is clear, for example, that police officers should not behave in a manner which brings discredit on the police force "whether on or off duty". Furthermore, the restraints upon disclosing confidential information are not qualified by any wording to the effect that the information can be disclosed otherwise than "in the proper course of police duties" provided that the disclosure takes place when the officer is "off duty". That would make a nonsense of the regulatory requirements.

I return briefly to the subject of photographs, to which the Claimant's solicitor referred in his witness statement. I was asked to bear in mind that rather blurred pictures of the Claimant have apparently from time to time appeared in the local press. I am not sure that this assists Mr White's argument, since the photographs are not relevant to the Claimant's identity as the author of the blog in question. On the other hand, his solicitor seems concerned about possible prejudice to undercover work. I would require more convincing evidence before considering the restraint of photographs, especially having regard to the Mahmood decision. There is no suggestion here of physical risk to the Claimant, as there was in that case.

As I have already noted, it is necessary for me to have in mind the provisions of s.12 of the Human Rights Act 1998, since the injunction sought would restrain The Times from exercising its right of freedom of expression. I have properly been reminded by both counsel of these provisions and, in all the circumstances, I have come to the conclusion that it is not likely that the Claimant would succeed at trial in restraining The Times from publishing his identity as the author of the blog, whether on grounds of traditional breach of confidence or by way of reliance upon the more recently developed remedies in respect of "private information".

I conclude that he fails at stage one, in the sense that the information does not have about it the necessary "quality of confidence", as contemplated by Megarry V.-C. in Coco v A N Clark (Engineers) Ltd [1969] RPC 41; nor does it qualify as information in respect of which the Claimant has a reasonable expectation of privacy – essentially because blogging is a public activity. Furthermore, even if I were wrong about this, I consider that any such right of privacy on the Claimant's part would be likely to be outweighed at trial by a countervailing public interest in revealing that a particular police officer has been making these communications.

Batteredstrat said...

It's in the Times interest, because Bloggers are better at web journolism than they are.

Its also in Mr Justice Eady's interest, because NightJack had the temerity to criticise the Judiciary.

It's in the Governments interest because they like to know which of their armed wing is 'not one of us'.

Now I know why he stopped writing. Disgusting, Disgraceful, Nu-Gestapo Britain.

T England said...

Looks like we will all have to learn to use TOR then doesn't it :o)

raincoatoptimism said...

Yes, this decision by Justice Eady has left a bitter taste in my mouth. And The Times eager for scandal; well this won't be it, the scandal will perhaps be that a policeman is laid off for a bit of informal informing.

P.S. Micheala; "It is necessary to examine the matter more closely": well you surely did that, could you not have posted it on your blog, or threatened Iain with plagues to get him to post it on the main page?

Chris Howell said...

Is his blog archived anywhere - it seemed to disappear without trace and with limited public comment until today... Keeping his social commentary in the public domain is something that has the potential to effect change for the better, which is more than can be said for the Times actions today.

Sue said...

That´s our privacy laws shot then!

I´m appalled!

The truth always hurts and this government has more to hide than most African despotic regimes!

Humpty Dumpty said...

He's been disciplined by Lancs Con - all because The Times have been emasculated by the DT and wanted to prove they're a big player as well. I really hope someone takes them to court to force them to name one of their numerous anonymous lobby sources. Now THAT'S in the public interest!!

Whiffler said...

So the Times bod did it 'mainly' by detection. So not 'wholly' which would have left him in no doubt.

Will the journo reveal his source who filled the gap between 'mainly' and 'wholly' and how much money changed hands or whether the method employed was legal?.

No he won't.

Eady ...... you b@st@rd. Fcuking amateur.


Love & kisses

Whiffler

Whiffler said...

And a PS (honest question) for Michaela

Where does sinformation (oft-quoted in the legislation) differ from knowledge.

You can watch an event and learn what has happened and what it means. If you don't divulge names and exact details then you haven't informed on anyone, merely shared your knowledge.

Whiffler (very amateur on the legal front)

aljahom said...

I think it fair to say that he won the Orwell Prize under false pretences, if you know what I mean, Iain...

http://aljahom.wordpress.com/2009/06/16/police-blogger-nightjack-unmasked-orwell-prize-in-jeopardy/

IMHO, natch :-)

AJ

Uncle Bob said...

I feel sorry for the guy if it's going to affect his career in the police. I'm not particularly bothered about anonymity whilst blogging personally but if other bloggers wished to keep their identity secret then I feel they should be able to. Look at the smears that people like Iain or Guido aka Paul Staines have had to deal with. Some people might not be prepared to put up with that.

IanVisits said...

I suspect this will be a pyrrhic victory for the newspaper - as one day, a similar decision will be handed down based on the same reasoning to force the newspaper to name its own anonymous sources.

Bonzodog said...

Ha

This happens the day after BBC's Panorama asked serious questions about Eady.

He has concentrated far far too much of the law in his own hands and it is high time that that is curtailed.

Dave H said...

I saw that his blog had been taken down, now I know why. It's disgusting of the Times to track him down and print his picture.

The man was only putting down his account of the crazy world of modern policing. All the police bloggers complain of pretty much the same things.

Anonymous said...

The Times just lost another customer, completely migrated to getting all my news online now.

Disgusted by their behaviour, but not particularly concerned, bloggers will flourish, The Times will not.

Newmania said...

Oh dear I was just about to send you a link to Hopi who is hot under the collar on this score

David Boothroyd said...

Whatever view one takes of The Times' decision to reveal Night Jack's identity, and however hypocritical it is being, Mr Justice Eady's judgment was inevitable - it would have been a shocking infringement of the liberty of the press if it had been ruled that The Times could be prohibited from disclosing the identity.

Some parts of The Times article do make a good point, over the fact that it was possible to identify the actual trials he was referring to, in which he disclosed further information not in the public domain.

Unsworth said...

Why/how is it in the public interest that his identity is revealed? If what he writes is accurate his employers have nothing to fear....

Or do they?

Unsworth said...

@ David Boothroyd

So presumably you'll be supportive of the notion that unnamed government 'sources' of all types and at all levels should be revealed?

This could be a lot of fun.

David Boothroyd said...

As it happens, yes I think it would be a very good thing if Government (and opposition) speakers were routinely named.

JuliaM said...

I find particularly revolting the 'Times' allegation that: "In April Mr Horton was awarded the Orwell Prize for political writing, but the judges were not aware that he was revealing confidential details about cases, some involving sex offences against children, that could be traced back to genuine prosecutions. "

First, it's absolute rubbish, and secondly, what's to stop them 'outing' similarly-critical workbloggers like 'NHS Blog Doctor' or 'Bystander' next time, under the pretence that they may be revealing details of patients or court cases?

Weygand said...

A person made public statements hiding behind a pseudonym and somebody was clever enough to work out who they really were.

Don't see that Nighthawk had much of a case legally - and Eady was right.

This is not an Orwellian BB moment that should worry people posting.

As I understand things, it was not an application by the police to the ISP to disclose information about a blogger. It was an application by a blogger to suppress information already obtained by a reporter using legitimate means at his disposal.

I am sorry for Nighthawk but don't see the fuss legally or that this sets any precedent.

Anonymous said...

If you're going to be a fully anonymous blogger you have to make sure you aren't caught, particularly if you're going to breach the confidences of your (public sector) job.

It would have been unthinkable for Eady to rule that he had a right to remain anonymous. Get angry with the Times for publishing but it's very clear where the law stands on this.

iCowboy said...

Iain,

Eady is a danger to free speech; he is also the judge who ruled that the science journalist and writer Simon Singh had libelled the British Chiropractic Association when he wrote:

"The British Chiropractic Association claims that their members can help treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying, even though there is not a jot of evidence. This organisation is the respectable face of the chiropractic profession and yet it happily promotes bogus treatments."

Rather than contest Singh's assertion by producing evidence that their treatments did cure what can be life-threatening conditions; the BCA ran to the libel courts where they knew the onus would be on Singh.Singh has appealed the judgment, but stands to be ruined if another judge is minded like Eady.

And if this stands, you can now expect every sort of charlatan to use the same tactics in future. It doesn't take much to imagine the consequences. Suppose the researchers who came up with the disproven MMR link to autism had been able to hide their evidence behind libel laws.

If the Conservatives want one policy that would get popular support, abolishing our libel laws would be a good start - they're an embarrassment used by the rich and powerful to pervert justice.

JuliaM said...

"I am sorry for Nighthawk..."

Not sorry enough to quote his nom de blog accurately, though...?

strapworld said...

Anonymous at 3.57pm

GROW UP JUVENILE!

Anonymous said...

I think I would like to know if the police is not quite doing its best to serve us, so why should Night Jack be sanctioned simply for letting the community know how things are. We could do with someone telling us just how it is in the NHS and the government as well.

Mirtha Tidville said...

Judges at one time, and in my experience, were concerned about how their decisions would be perceived in the higher courts on appeal and consequentally made broadly common sense decisions. For those old enough, remember the great Master of the Rolls, Lord Denning.

Eady and his ilk, are mavericks who like to court controversy largely for the publicity it brings. It makes these f***wits feel important & to them that is everything.

If this blogger appeals ( too late many may say) on a point of law I would think he might win. Eady`s decisions can be overturned every day and nothing will happen to him. He is unsackable and can go on as long as he wants....

As for the times, is anyone suprised?....its owned by Murdoch and he`s biggest guttersnipe of the lot......

Nevertheless wont buy it again

manc_ill_kid said...

Just how much traffic does The Times get from the blogosphere and how much would it suffer if this traffic was withheld?

Anonymous said...

This is about old world media trying to cripple the blogger competition.
If it had been a paper journalist protecting a source all sorts of outrage would be made.
All it means is that when Bloggers get a story the Times is on to the gloves will be off and scoops will be spiked.

dearieme said...

It's not very difficult to find out who I am. It's much more difficult to find out which of my comments are mine and which are parodies written by some of my naughty students. The buggers even repeat some of my favourite anecdotes, presumably as punishment for my having told them too often.

Anonymous said...

just adding to the complete hoplesness of britian.

one reason for this,the papers are petrified of bloggs,as it means their lies and nonsense is coming to an end

what will kill the courts and the old papers,this copper will become famous and have a successful blog.

Nigel said...

This from Eady is manifestly absurd -

>>Rejecting the argument that all the blogger's readers needed to know was that he was a serving police officer, the judge said it was often useful, in assessing the value of an opinion or argument, to know its source...<<

- when it is entirely clear from the facts of the case that revealing the identity of the 'source' means silencing it.

However, the point is only tangential to the decision, and I don't necessarily disagree with Eady's ruling in this case - though Eady is (IMO) an arse, who seems quite happy to rule in favour of privacy for the rich or powerful.

The behaviour of the Times was utterly shoddy.

jailhouselawyer said...

Can't you appeal to the Orwell Prize judges?

Anonymous said...

I was saddened by the ruling, although I can see it's logic - in terms of "Know your accuser" - which is a fundament of justice.

However, realistically and practically, the only way ordinary people can know the truth about the public services for which they pay, is to read the word of bloggers from within - I'm an avid reader of Frank Chalk, Dr Crippen, Dr Grumble, PC Copperfield (already outed) - and value the authentic dimension they add to the debate. I'm guessing that's going to be more circumspect in terms of how blogging is a more instant and effective (and less dangerous) alterntive to whistleblowing.

Plus, as Iain says, the government lob unattributed shite at whoever they feel (McBride stylee) all unaccountable yet getting the validity of airing by a cowardly yet ratings-hungry media - and they thrive on it -despite being funded by us, none of them are ever accountable - of course it stinks.

Chin up NightJack - end of the day you did a valuable service of which you should feel proud even if they have stitched you up. I guess you're going to have to take it on the chin, but polish that Orwell award and know your colleagues (necessarily privately) backed you.
(Delilah - posting as anonymous)

Weygand said...

I don't understand all the legal angst nor why some show off wants to monopolise the space.

Were the blogger promoting some cause that was unpopular to the readers of this blog, there would be cries of triumph that he had been unmasked.

But in an open, democratic society, you cannot have one rule for your friends and another for everyone else.

As a lawyer - although with no expertise in this field - the application seems a non-starter and I have yet to hear somebody with such expertise say why it might have been.

IJ said...

Thats The Times removed from my bookmarks. Its obvious the newspapers owners are worried their power to control the politicians and public is being lost to bloggers.
Justice Eady is the most powerful man in Britain by the sound of it. Why do we need Parliament with him around.

Dave J said...

"If the Conservatives want one policy that would get popular support, abolishing our libel laws would be a good start - they're an embarrassment used by the rich and powerful to pervert justice."

No need to abolish them: just amend them to adopt the principles in place in the rest of the common-law world, and they will stop getting wielded as a sword by the wealthy and/or censorious. Placing the burden to prove falsehood on a defendant as a supposed affirmative defense to defamation, instead of requiring a plaintiff to prove truth as an element of the tort, invites mischief, and the libel tourism that presently makes the English courts the world's forum of choice by far for such suits.

JuliaM said...

"Were the blogger promoting some cause that was unpopular to the readers of this blog, there would be cries of triumph that he had been unmasked."

You're wrong, actually. I've never favoured outing bloggers.

Even onee I don't like, or read.

Weygand said...

@ JuliaM

Sorry but don't believe you.

And in the event that you would have felt the same had Nightjack been a BNP member or whatever, the point is not whether or not one approves of bloggers being unmasked (I prefer not) but whether the law should actually prevent it.

As others have already said - the real story is is not whether the Times should have been allowed to publish Nightjack's identity but why they thought it a good idea to do so.

Anonymous said...

Comments are actually appearing on the Times on Finkelstein's blog sitehttp://timesonline.typepad.com/comment/2009/06/i-have-had-quite-a-few-emails-and-comments-about-nightjack-and-the-times-story-revealing-his-identity-so-i-thought-i-would-g.html#comments

Anonymous said...

Apart from Daniel Finkelstein's Comment Central online, where the comments are uniformly hostile, all mention of Night Jack seems to have been expunged from the Times website.