The bigger picture

By | 13th December 2012

Everyone will have heard about the prank perpetrated by two Australian DJs which went so tragically wrong. There has been so much noise out there about all aspects of this tragedy that I have thought long and hard whether I should add to it.

In keeping with the tradition of this blog, I have no intention of entering into the realms of political debate on the subject, but it occurs to me that there are lessons to be learned from the affair just as there are/were from the unreasonable Twitter hammering of Lord MacAlpine. I hope that it goes without saying that the tragic and untoward death of the nurse who was duped into putting through the call from the Aussie radio station should never have happened and while nothing can bring her back, all people of goodwill will have thought much about the her and her grieving family.

All I will say on the political front is that with the publication of the Leveson Report and the heated debate about whether he is actually calling for state regulation or statutory control of the press, this awful affair could not have come at a worse time for the media in general.

Collyer Bristow partner and Head of Defamation and Reputation Management, Dominic Crossley, who represented the Core Participant Victims at Leveson has drawn my attention to an article on media law website Inforrm where, by emailing your support, he hopes to demonstrate that a significant number of lawyers, inter alia, support the Leveson recommendations:  Media Lawyers and Leveson – A Petition in support of the Recommendations – Dominic Crossley.

As is often the case, those involved in the e-discovery/disclosure sphere need to be aware of other matters which might at first seem peripheral but which are actually hugely important. It is all very well being focused but if you cannot see the bigger picture, you may very well get lost.

So, that brings me to two questions prompted by another Inforrm article [The Duchess of Cambridge, the Hoax Telephone Call – was this a Data Protection Offence?, Inforrm, 8 December, 2012] and which appear to have been forgotten in all this, namely are not the two perpetrators of the prank and/or their employers guilty of an offence under the Data Protection Act and should the hospital where the Duchess of Cambridge was being treated have had in place a suitable policy to protect sensitive medical information about its patients?

No longer a practising lawyer, I do not venture to answer either question but merely wish to remind lawyers that issues regarding the obtaining of sensitive personal data and offences under the Data Protection Act are matters which lawyers involved in e-disclosure need to keep in mind at all times. They are not just matters for the media and/or the press.