Aaron Moss acts for Tortoise Media in JR Claim against Conservative Party

5 December 2023

Tortoise Media sought to bring a claim for judicial review against the Conservative Party, seeking to enforce its journalists rights to information under Article 10 ECHR for information on the Party’s leadership vote which led to the appointment of Liz Truss as Prime Minister (read the background on Tortoise’s website).

Aaron Moss, led by Alan Payne KC and instructed by Giles Crown and Fraser McKeating of Lewis Silkin, acted for Tortoise Media. Tortoise is a British news outlet co-founded by James Harding, former BBC News director and editor of The Times, specialising in slow news.

Fordham J refused Tortoise’s application for permission, giving a detailed written judgment. The Court rejected Tortoise’s argument that the Party’s leadership vote was a public function, for the purposes of judicial review and the Human Rights Act 1998. Tortoise argued that although it was the Sovereign’s prerogative power to appoint a Prime Minister, the Sovereign was all but obliged to appoint the person who won the Party’s leadership vote.

The second issue arising in the claim was whether the decision of the ECtHR in Magyar Helsinki Bizottság v. Hungary Case No.18030/11 (2020) 71 EHRR 2 (8.11.16) created a right enforceable in domestic law for journalists to obtain information from public authorities and those who exercise public functions. Fordham J held that the Court:

“would have accepted as arguable… that the reach of a ‘hybrid’ public authority’s public function falls within ‘State-held information’: see Magyar at §§38 and 141. As to the ‘domestic precedent’ point and Magyar – if anything could have turned on it – I would have allowed Mr Payne KC’s argument (§31 above) through to a substantive hearing.”

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