Well, I think it's about the progression of behaviour. I had very good working relationships with most of the national newspapers. I was probably, and still am, one of their principal adversaries, and you know, it's not just a question of whether or not you're an adversary on a weekly or daily basis but you have to behave adversarially all the time. We did have good relationships, and during the early part of this century, 2000 up until 2008 and 2009, even -- I suppose even now occasionally, the papers were -- would occasionally alert us to a story that they were going to publish, and that was certainly more prevalent the further one goes back than it is currently. So we would be contacted, perhaps on a Thursday or Friday, in relation to a story that was being developed for publication on a Sunday. It ordinary involved either material that was potentially defamatory and the newspaper was looking to balance out their risk by putting the story to the target's lawyers, or alternatively it concerned material that was of a private nature and they were trying to assess what, if any, resistance they would receive.
In order to enhance and regularise their approach to me, I would send out a list of all of my clients with a notice basically saying that if you have any material which you intend to publish, please put it to us first because it gives us the right of response, and certainly up until, I suppose, the last few years, the journalists and the legal departments would put that material to us. But over time, what's actually happened is two things. Firstly, the amount of damages that were awarded in relation to defamation, to libel generally, has reduced. So I suppose when one goes back in time to the Elton John cases, they were the last of the very high damages awards. So it's been on a sliding scale coming downwards, and the maximum amounts that have been provided by way of damages in relation to breach of privacy have been relatively modest. If a newspaper or a media organisation can calculate the financial consequences post-publication, they can also calculate whether or not the benefits of publishing the story without actually approaching the target or their lawyers first outweigh the risk or financial consequences of awards against them, and even costs post-publication.
So what I have seen is a reluctance by the media generally to put stories pre-publication and to stand back and await the fallout, if you like, after publication.
That has two effects. Firstly, some people view it as once the stable door is open and the private information is in the public domain, what's the point in litigating after the event? It only reinforces and reminds the reader, and those who perhaps didn't even read the information, about the private information, so there's a natural deterrent post-publication, in some people's minds, to commence proceedings.
Secondly, so far as defamatory material is concerned, I suppose there is an easier outcome for the defendants in any action post-publication, and that is to make an offer in order to satisfy the claim.
So certainly so far as private information is concerned, I've detected and seen a reluctance over the last few years by the media to actually put stories pre-publication.