Yesterday may not have been the most relaxing Sunday for a mystery media law partner at Hamlins called “Chris”, after a press release in which he was featured caught the attention of The Observer media columnist Peter Preston.
According to Preston, the press release – sent by a PR on behalf of Hamlins – provided notification that “Chris” was about to win a big case against the Mail on Sunday, with the result to be confirmed the next morning when Mr Justice Tugendhat handed down his verdict. The press release also provided quotes from the judge and “Chris” – who Preston refused to name in full but did disclose was a “senior libel partner at ‘well-renowned’ Hamlins LLP and representative of Hello! magazine among others”. In addition, Preston says the PR offered to send out the whole judgment on request.
It turns out that some of this may have been against the rules.
“Hang on!” squawked Preston, “I thought draft judicial verdicts (see Procedure Rules, Practice Direction 40E) couldn’t be supplied ahead of publication to “any other person” than the parties involved? Nor be the trigger for anything but “internal” action until then?”
Having had this revelation, Preston then set about trying to contact “Chris” to see if Judge Tugendhat had given a special dispensation to break the embargo, but met with no response.