Bonnard v Perryman: CA 2 Jan 1891

Although the courts possessed a jurisdiction, ‘in all but exceptional cases’, they should not issue an interlocutory injunction to restrain the publication of a libel which the defence sought to justify except where it was clear that that defence would fail. Where the defendant contends that the words complained of are true and swears that he will plead and seek to prove the defence of justification, the court should not grant an interlocutory injunction unless, exceptionally, it is satisfied that the defence is one which cannot succeed. The plaintiff must demonstrate that ‘it is clear that (the) alleged libel is untrue.’
Lord Coleridge CJ said that there was a particular need not to restrict the right of free speech in libel cases by interfering before the final determination of the matter by a jury otherwise than in a clear case of an untrue libel, saying: ‘But it is obvious that the subject-matter of an action for defamation is so special as to require exceptional caution in exercising the jurisdiction to interfere by injunction before the trial of an action to prevent an anticipated wrong. The right of free speech is one which it is for the public interest that individuals should possess, and, indeed, that they should exercise without impediment, so long as no wrongful act is done; and, unless an alleged libel is untrue, there is no wrong committed; but, on the contrary, often a very wholesome act is performed in the publication and repetition of an alleged libel. Until it is clear that an alleged libel is untrue, it is not clear that any right at all has been infringed; and the importance of leaving free speech unfettered is a strong reason in cases of libel for dealing most cautiously and warily with the granting of interim injunctions.
In the particular case before us, indeed, the libellous character of the publication is beyond dispute, but the effect of it upon the Defendant can be finally disposed of only by a jury, and we cannot feel sure that the defence of justification is one which, on the facts which may be before them, the jury may find to be wholly unfounded; nor can we tell what may be the damages recoverable.’

Lord Coleridge CJ, Lord Esher MR, Lindley, Bowen and Lopes LJJ
[1891] 2 Ch 269
England and Wales
Appeal fromBonnard v Perryman QBD 1891
The libel in issue was a very damaging one. Unless it could be justified at the trial it was one in which a jury would give the plaintiff ‘very serious damages’. The court was asked to grant an interlocutory injunction to restrain publication.
ApprovedWilliam Coulson and Sons v James Coulson and Co CA 1887
Lord Esher MR said: ‘It could not be denied that the court had jurisdiction to grant an interim injunction before trial. It was, however, a most delicate jurisdiction to exercise, because, though Fox’s Act only applied to indictments and . .

Cited by:
CitedCream Holdings Limited and others v Banerjee and The Liverpool Daily Post and Echo Limited CA 13-Feb-2003
The defendants considered publication of alleged financial irregularities by the claimant, who sought to restrain publication. The defendants argued that under the Act, prior restraint should not be used unless a later court would be likely to . .
CitedHubbard v Pitt CA 1976
Protesters handed out leaflets and carried posters outside the plaintiff’s estate agency. He claimed in trespass over the public footpath outside his premises. The defendants appealed the grant of an interlocutory injunction to prevent their . .
CitedTillery Valley Foods v Channel Four Television, Shine Limited ChD 18-May-2004
The claimant sought an injunction to restrain the defendants broadcasting a film, claiming that it contained confidential material. A journalist working undercover sought to reveal what he said were unhealthy practices in the claimant’s meat . .
CitedService Corporation International plc v Channel Four Television ChD 1999
The court considered an application for an interlocutory injunction to restrain a broadcast, based on copyright. The defendant argued that this was merely an attempt to circumvent difficulties in a defamation action.
Held: Where an interim . .
CitedGreene v Associated Newspapers Ltd CA 5-Nov-2004
The claimant appealed against refusal of an order restraining publication by the respondent of an article about her. She said that it was based upon an email falsely attributed to her.
Held: ‘in an action for defamation a court will not impose . .
CitedFraser v Evans CA 1969
The law of confidence is based on the moral principles of loyalty and fair dealing. An injunction was sought to restrain an intended publication: ‘The court will not restrain the publication of an article, even though it is defamatory, when the . .
RestatedHerbage v Pressdram Ltd CA 1984
There was a publication of articles which referred to convictions which were spent under the 1974 Act. The court restated the principle in Bonnard v Perryman: ‘These principles have evolved because of the value the court has placed on freedom of . .
CitedKhashoggi v IPC Magazines Ltd CA 1986
The plaintiff sought to restrain the publication of an article. The defendants asserted that they would justify what they said at trial by reference to a Polly Peck defence, as to which: ‘I cannot see why the Bonnard v Perryman principle should not . .
CitedHerbage v Times Newspapers Ltd CA 30-Apr-1981
The principles in American Cyanamid did not affect the rule in Bonnard v Perryman. Sir Denys Buckley saiod: ‘the question what meaning the words complained of bore was primarily one for the jury. Suppose the words bore the second meaning alleged and . .
CitedHolley, SD and R Trading Limited, Henry Ansbacher and Co Limited, Ansbacher (Jersey) Limited v Smith CA 4-Dec-1997
The motive for a threatened publication, was not relevant, when considering whether to restrain publication beforehand. Sir Christopher Slade said: ‘I accept that the court may be left with a residual discretion to decline to apply the rule in . .
CitedLord Browne of Madingley v Associated Newspapers Ltd CA 3-Apr-2007
The appellant sought to restrict publication by the defendants in the Mail on Sunday of matters which he said were a breach of confidence. He had lied to a court in giving evidence, whilst at the same time being ready to trash the reputation of his . .
CitedBoehringer Ingelheim Ltd and others v Vetplus Ltd CA 20-Jun-2007
The claimants appealed refusal of an order restricting comparative advertising materials for the defendant’s competing veterinary medicine. The claimant said that the rule against prior restraint applicable to defamation and other tort proceedings . .
CitedBestobell v Bigg 1975
The rule in Bonnard preventing prior restraint in defamation proceedings applies also in the context of an allegation of malicious falsehood. . .
CitedGulf Oil (Great Britain) Limited v Page CA 1987
The plaintiff had contracted exclusively to supply to the defendants owners of petrol stations. On arrears arising, the plaintiff discontinued deliveries save on cash on delivery and direct debit terms. The defendants obtained supplies from another . .
CitedRST v UVW QBD 11-Sep-2009
The applicant sought an interim and without notice injunction preventing the defendant from disclosing confidential information covered by an agreement between the parties.
Held: The order was made on a without notice application because there . .
CitedCaborn-Waterfield v Gold and Others QBD 11-Mar-2013
The defendants requested a preliminary ruling that the words complained of in the claimant’s action were not capable of bearing a defamatory meaning.
Held: Some of the pleaded meanings were not supported, but others were clearly defamatory, . .
CitedVaughan v London Borough of Lewisham and Others QBD 11-Apr-2013
The claimant sought an order to restrain anticipated defamatory comments and evidence to be given to an employment tribunal.
Held: It could not be said as the claimant asserted that dfeences were bound to fail, and no determination should be . .
CitedHannon and Another v News Group Newspapers Ltd and Another ChD 16-May-2014
The claimants alleged infringement of their privacy, saying that the defendant newspaper had purchased private information from police officers emplyed by the second defendant, and published them. The defendants now applied for the claims to be . .
CitedHeythrop Zoological Gardens Ltd (T/A Amazing Animals) and Another v Captive Animals Protection Society ChD 20-May-2016
The claimant said that the defendant had, through its members visiting their premises, breached the licence under which they entered, by taking photographs and distributing them on the internet, and in so doing also infringing the performance rights . .
CitedRoberts and Others v Regina CACD 6-Dec-2018
Sentencing of Political Protesters
The defendants appealed against sentences for causing a public nuisance. They had been protesting against fracking by climbing aboard a lorry and blocking a main road for several days.
Held: The appeals from immediate custodial sentences were . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Defamation, Litigation Practice

Leading Case

Updated: 10 November 2021; Ref: scu.182936

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