Cam­paign­ers win right to chal­lenge Mur­doch’s bid for Sky

The Guardian - - NATIONAL - Mark Sweney

A cam­paign­ing group op­posed to Ru­pert Mur­doch’s takeover of Sky has won per­mis­sion to launch a le­gal chal­lenge to the me­dia reg­u­la­tor’s rul­ing that the broad­caster would re­main “fit and proper” to hold a UK li­cence if it were owned by 21st Century Fox.

A high court judge said the ac­tivist group Avaaz would have its case for a ju­di­cial re­view of Of­com’s de­ci­sion heard be­fore 30 June.

“The case is ar­guable and may raise some im­por­tant points of prin­ci­ple,” said Jus­tice Mor­ris. “Per­mis­sion is hereby granted.”

Avaaz has ar­gued that Of­com’s process and de­ci­sion was flawed in a num­ber of ways, in­clud­ing that it was too easy for sub­jects of fit and proper tests to be cleared.

It also claimed the reg­u­la­tor had made er­rors when as­sess­ing 21st Century Fox’s com­pli­ance with the UK broad­cast­ing code, drew “wrong con­clu­sions” from al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual and racial ha­rass­ment at Fox News, and ig­nored the role Ru­pert Mur­doch’s son James would play as chief ex­ec­u­tive of 21st Century Fox.

The judge said it was not nec­es­sary for the out­come of Avaaz’s court case to be known be­fore the UK com­pe­ti­tion reg­u­la­tor pub­lished its fi­nal ver­dict on whether to clear the £11.7bn takeover of Sky in April.

The deal is be­ing scru­ti­nised be­cause it raises me­dia plu­ral­ity is­sues, as full own­er­ship of Sky would give the Mur­dochs con­trol of Sky News as well as the Sun and the Times.

The Com­pe­ti­tion and Mar­kets Author­ity is ex­am­in­ing op­tions re­gard­ing the future of Sky News, in­clud­ing whether the news chan­nel needs to be sold, spun off or just made ed­i­to­ri­ally sep­a­rate from Sky in or­der to re­solve the me­dia plu­ral­ity is­sue.

If Avaaz were to win its case then Of­com would be forced to re­con­sider its “fit and proper” de­ci­sion, which could pro­vide yet an­other hur­dle for the Mur­dochs.

An Of­com spokesman said: “We will de­fend our ‘fit and proper’ assess­ment, which was in­de­pen­dent, ex­pert and based on the ev­i­dence.” at Pre­ston crown court. She was also con­victed of three counts of griev­ous bod­ily harm with in­tent and child cru­elty re­lat­ing to the vic­tim of the ear­lier at­tack, who can­not be named for le­gal rea­sons. She will be sen­tenced later.

On the night Amelia was killed, a so­cial worker left Crich­ton alone with the baby at her home. Within two hours the mother had in­flicted “cat­a­strophic” head in­juries on her “help­less and vul­ner­a­ble” child.

Amelia, born “on the cusp of life” at 24 weeks, died in hospi­tal two days after the at­tack on 19 April last year.

Crich­ton tried to blame her part­ner, Richard Shep­pard, for the in­juries.

Out­side court Det Insp Si­mon Cheyte of Lan­cashire po­lice said: “In re­la­tion to the con­vic­tion for as­sault on the other child, this was sub­ject to a pre­vi­ous po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion and Jennifer Crich­ton was ar­rested but at that time it was de­cided by the CPS there was not enough ev­i­dence to pros­e­cute her.

“Fol­low­ing the mur­der of Amelia, the ear­lier as­sault was re­viewed and fur­ther ev­i­dence, not avail­able to the orig­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion team, was dis­cov­ered. This was con­sid­ered along with the sup­port­ing ev­i­dence of Amelia’s sad death.” that these may not be quick pro­ceed­ings un­der ter­ror­ism leg­is­la­tion with po­ten­tial for ap­peals. “What we have no guid­ance on is whether groups of men who are fight­ing with air cover from the French and [with] sup­port from UK forces … whether men and woman in that sit­u­a­tion fall un­der the Ter­ror­ism Act,” he said.

The mag­is­trate, Emma Ar­buth­not, said: “This is a very un­usual case. It’s cer­tainly the first case this court has had in front of it in nu­mer­ous other al­leged ter­ror­ism cases.”

A Met­ro­pol­i­tan po­lice spokesman said last week: “James Matthews, a UK na­tional, will ap­pear at West­min­ster mag­is­trates court on Fe­bru­ary 14 to be for­mally charged with at­tend­ing a place or places in Iraq and Syria where in­struc­tion or train­ing was pro­vided for pur­poses con­nected to the com­mis­sion or prepa­ra­tion of ter­ror­ism on or be­fore Fe­bru­ary 15 2016 un­der Sec­tion 8 of the Ter­ror­ism Act 2006.”

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