High Court answers question: 'What is a newspaper?'

  • It does not have to be a particular ‘size or shape’ or made of paper
  • Judges rule It DOES have to contain news
  • Brandon Davies spent thousands of pounds in legal fees
  • He declares: ‘Rupert Murdoch is my role model’

The High Court has answered the question: “What constitutes a newspaper?”

Two judges ruled that it does not have to be a particular size or shape, or made of paper or any other particular material – but it does have to contain news.

The court’s answer delighted Brandon Davis, a dedicated admirer of Rupert Murdoch, who paid hundreds of pounds in legal costs to get the law clarified.

Davis, 47, from Southend-on-Sea, Essex, publishes the “Brandon Davis Event Times” (BDET), which consists of laminated pages which look like over-large credit cards fixed together on a lanyard.

He has sold the BDET at festivals and sporting events around the country, including Glastonbury and the FA Cup Final.

But Westminster City Council prosecuted him for illegal street trading.

Street warden Paul Green seized copies of the BDET at Marble Arch in central London last May on the grounds that they were “placards or badges”, not newspapers, and a street trading licence was required to sell them.

City council lawyers argued that the laminated product could not be a newspaper, which is exempt from licensing, because it did not consist of paper, and it only contained information, not news.

Westminster Magistrates’ Court ruled last October that the BDET was not a newspaper in the ordinary sense of the word and Davis was guilty of trading without a licence, contrary to the City of Westminster Act 1999.

The magistrates fined Davis £125 and ordered him to pay £100 legal costs, plus a £15 victim surcharge.

Today Lord Justice Moses and Mr Justice Burnett refused Davis’s plea at London’s High Court to overturn the conviction, saying the BDET copies before the court “consisted of information about football leagues and festivals and did not contain news”.

But crucially for Davis, the judges also ruled that newspapers were not defined by what material they were printed on, “nor by shape or size”.

The judge said: “In my view, any other conclusion would be absurd.”

Although clarifying the law landed him with an additional £1,500 legal bill, a grateful Davis thanked the judges for their ruling.

He said outside court: “I consider this case a win. I have got what I wanted because the judge has said the size and shape of a newspaper, or what it is made of, is not the mark of whether it is a newspaper or not.

“I am going to take the judges’ advice and include more articles in the BDET so that it fits their definition of a newspaper. I am hoping to publish newspapers until I am older than Rupert Murdoch.

“He is my role model, and hopefully I will still be in business in my 90s. Westminster almost brought us to our knees, but this judgment will put us back on our feet in time for the Olympics and the Queen’s jubilee.”

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