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Training Matters: Ensuring McNae’s stays up to date

This week’s guest bloggers are the co-authors of the new edition of Essential Law for Journalists, Mark Hanna and Mike Dodd.

If only the law would stand still. But it never does. For example, can you name the four different sets of reporting restrictions which can provide anonymity for juveniles involved court cases? Until recently, there were only two sets.

Do you know what the Court of Appeal decided after pop star Paul Weller and his wife launched a privacy case against a newpaper website because their children were photographed in the street by a paparazzo during a family outing?

And do you know that it is now an offence to identify a victim of ‘human trafficking for exploitation’ – for example, someone tricked or coerced into travelling to work for low pay, perhaps picking fruit on farms or as a domestic servant? The anonymity covers trafficking within, as well as into, the UK.

As co-authors of the latest edition of McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists – the 23rd, published in June – we set out in its pages the recent changes in media law, and provide updates about UK’s systems of press and broadcast regulation.

The full collection of editions of McNae's Essential Law for Journalists. Picture by NCTJ

The full collection of editions of McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists. Picture by NCTJ

It was a challenge to cram in all the changes.  Let us know what you think of it – our email addresses are in its preface.

The updates include new case studies. We have re-structured some chapters – including the one dealing with privacy.

Here and there we have used a new visual feature – ‘Remember your rights!’ For example, this flags up the point that if journalists report from a civil court case, the judge must – under court rules – have regard to ‘any representations’ made for them to be allowed to see case documents. Obviously, much of McNae’s sets out rights of access to information and rights to publish it. The feature seeks to underline some rights which, in particular, may need to be asserted.

In the new edition, we aim to continue to deepen and broaden the book’s explanation of ethical and regulatory obligations. There is more focus, for example, on the need for ‘audit trails’ – documentation – to be created to justify ‘undercover’ work or other types of journalistic deception. The Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) puts great emphasis on such compliance procedures. As the book points out, such ‘trails’ can also protect the publisher’s position in data protection law, and buttress use of the ‘public interest’ defence in defamation law.

We hope that chapter 2 will be a godsend for anyone teaching or training about press regulation, as it explains succinctly but precisely the complexity and fragmentation of regulation in the post-Leveson world. Ipso adjudications are included in McNae’s for the first time, as Ipso began its operations in 2014. But the book also still refers to adjudications of Ipso’s predecessor, the Press Complaints Commission, where these remain the best chart for navigating deep waters. Naturally, the book uses the latest version of the Editors’ Code of Practice, which came into effect at the start of 2016.   The Code is reproduced in full as an appendix. And, of course, the book’s case studies include Ofcom adjudications.

The chapter on protection of sources covers the controversial discovery that police were secretly using the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act to access phone data to identify officers ‘leaking’ information to journalists. It also explains the change in the law which means that now a judge must approve police use of such powers – and gives practical advice on how journalists can safeguard the identities of their confidential sources.

So, if you are working from an out-dated edition of McNae’s, be warned that the world has changed greatly since that was written.

Remember too that the McNae’s website – – will soon be fully re-vamped, to expand on the latest edition and bring you the latest updates.