Abu v MGN Ltd: QBD 2003

There should be nothing in any sense ‘rough and ready’ about the assessment of the claimant’s reputation under the offer of amends procedure in the 1996 Act. If compensation is not agreed it should be determined by the court on the same principles as in defamation proceedings. The court will take account of a range of factors similar to those in a full action, such as the gravity of the allegations, the scale of publication and any relevant aggravating or mitigating factors particular to the case.
Eady J said: ‘The Neill Committee recommendation was primarily directed towards providing a fair and reasonable exit route for defendants confronted with unreasonable demands from such manipulative or powerful claimants, who felt no doubt sometimes that they had them ‘over a barrel’. Yet it was naturally hoped that the ‘offer of amends’ would help to focus minds on achieving realistic compromise, and thus reduce the cost, for a much wider range of litigants. Whether any such reform will succeed, however, must depend on whether the statutory provisions as drafted are attractive to use. In this instance, it must provide an incentive to defendants to make the offer and to claimants to accept. In either case, a rational decision can only be made if it is possible within reasonable limits to predict the range of outcomes to which one is committing oneself. For example, before making an offer a defendant needs to be able to assess the gravity of the impact of the libel upon the complainant’s reputation and feelings, and this will generally have to be done in the light of the particulars of claim and/or letter before action. It would not seem fair if an offer is made and accepted on one basis, and the complainant then reveals for the first time elements of pleadable damage not previously mentioned, such as for example that his marriage has broken down or that he has lost his employment.
It would only accord with most people’s sense of justice if the offer of amends is construed as relating to the complaint as notified. Such an approach would also accord with the modern ‘cards on the table’ approach to litigation generally and, more specifically, with the thinking behind the Defamation Pre-Action Protocol.’


Eady J


[2003] 1 WLR 2001


Defamation Act 1996 3(5)


England and Wales

Cited by:

See AlsoAbu v MGN Ltd SCCO 19-Jul-2004
. .
CitedNail and Another v News Group Newspapers Ltd and others CA 20-Dec-2004
The claimant appealed the award of damages in his claim for defamation. The defendants had variously issued apologies. The claimant had not complained initially as to one publication.
Held: In defamation proceedings the damage to feelings is . .
CitedBowman v MGN Ltd QBD 26-Apr-2010
The claimant complained of an article on the defendant’s web-site. The defendant offered an unqualified offer of amends. The court was asked to settle an amount of compensation. Though the article was removed within a few hours and upon receipt of . .
CitedThornton v Telegraph Media Group Ltd QBD 26-Jul-2011
The claimant alleged defamation and malicious falsehood in an article published and written by the defendants. She complained that she was said to have fabricated an interview with the second defendant for her book. An interview of sorts had now . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Defamation, Damages

Updated: 26 May 2022; Ref: scu.220496