British Steel Corporation v Granada Television Ltd: HL 7 May 1980

The defendant had broadcast a TV programme using material confidential to the plaintiff, who now sought disclosure of the identity of the presumed thief.
Held: (Lord Salmon dissenting) The courts have never recognised a public interest right of the media to protect their sources where disclosure was necessary in the interests of justice. As to procedure, the courts could order disclosure of a third party’s name. The defendant here could not claim to have been unaware of any wrongdoing by the person who delivered the documents, and this was not a case where they would receive the limited protection from discovery available in defamation cases.
Lord Wilberforce said: ‘there is a wide difference between what is interesting to the public and what it is in the public interest to make known.’
Wilberforce, Salmon, Fraser of Tullybelton, Russell of Killowen LL, Viscount Dilhorne
[1981] AC 1096, [1981] 1 All ER 452, [1980] 3 WLR 774
England and Wales
CitedInitial Services Ltd v Putterill CA 1967
The plaintiff’s sales manager resigned, but took with him confidential documents which he gave to a newspaper. The defendant sought to justify this, saying that the company had failed to register agreements it should have done under the Act.
CitedAttorney-General v Clough 1963
The court declined to recognise any right of the media to protect their sources from disclosure of identity where disclosure was in the public interest.
Lord Parker CJ said: ‘it . . would remain open to this court to say in the special . .
CitedAttorney-General v Mulholland CA 1963
The court rejected a claim for protection from disclosure of matters passing between journalists and their sources: ‘it is said that however these questions were and however proper to be answered for the purpose of this inquiry, a journalist has a . .
CitedNorwich Pharmacal Co and others v Customs and Excise Commissioners HL 26-Jun-1973
Innocent third Party May still have duty to assist
The plaintiffs sought discovery from the defendants of documents received by them innocently in the exercise of their statutory functions. They sought to identify people who had been importing drugs unlawfully manufactured in breach of their . .
CitedOrr v Diaper 1876
The plaintiff had a cause of action against the defendant and sought discovery of the name of a third party known to the defendant so that that third party could be joined in. ‘In this case the Plaintiffs do not know, and cannot discover, who the . .
CitedAbernethy v Hutchinson 17-Jun-1825
An application was made to restrain the Defendants from publishing, in ‘The Lancet,’ Mr Abernethy’s Lectures, which had been delivered extemporally. Lord Eldon, at first, refused the application; but afterward granted an injunction, in the ground . .
CitedPrince Albert v Strange ChD 8-Feb-1849
The Prince sought to restrain publication of otherwise unpublished private etchings and lists of works by Queen Victoria. The etchings appeared to have been removed surreptitiously from or by one Brown. A personal confidence was claimed.
Held: . .
CitedCardale -v Watkins 1820
Discovery of documents can only be ordered either within existing proceedings or at most in aid of intended proceedings. Discovery would not be granted for the mere satisfaction of curiosity. . .
CitedHillman’s Airways Ltd v SA d’Editions Aeronautiques Internationales 1934
. .
CitedScience Research Council v Nasse; BL Cars Ltd (formerly Leyland Cars) v Voias HL 1-Nov-1979
Recent statutes had given redress to anyone suffering unlawful discrimination on account of race sex or trade union activities. An employee sought discovery of documents from his employer which might reveal such discrimination.
Held: The court . .
CitedBroadcasting Corporation of New Zealand v Alex Harvey Industries 1980
The rule against a newspaper being ordered to disclose the source of its information in defamation proceedings was extended to apply also in slander of goods. . .
CitedRio Tinto Zinc Corporation v Westinghouse Electric Corporation, Re Westinghouse Electric Corpn Uranium Contract Litigation MDL Docket No 235 (No 2) HL 1977
The court considered a claim that a party was not compelled to give evidence where it might incriminate him: ‘No one is bound to furnish information against himself. It [the common law] says: ‘If a witness claims the protection of the court, on the . .
CitedRegina v Boyes 27-May-1861
A defendant seeking to avoid answering questions so as not to incriminate himself is to be given some understanding and latitude in respecting his own interpretation. The beneficiary of a pardon could be called upon to incriminate himself because he . .
CitedTriplex Safety Glass Co Ltd v Lancegaye Safety Glass (1934) Ltd 1939
A company is to have the benefit of protection against self incrimination just as much as an individual. A court is not bound without more, by a claim to the privilege by a party to litigation. . .
CitedPlymouth Mutual Co-operative Soceiety and Industrial Society Ltd v Traders’ Publishing Organisation 1908
Interrogatories in defamation proceedings will not be allowed to request from a newspaper the source of the journalist’s information where there may be considerable public interest. . .
CitedAdam v Fisher 1914
There were two possible reasons why a newspaper might be treated differently from another organisation in defamation proceedings, in that discovery of the source of information will not be ordered. First, it might be expected that it was the purpose . .
CitedLyle-Samuel v Oldhams Ltd 1919
The rule that in defamation proceedings, a newspaper defendant should not be obliged in interrogatories to disclose the name of an informant is so well established as to be beyond argument. ‘All I say is that this is an action of libel against the . .
CitedSouth Suburban Co-operative Society Ltd v Orum 1937
Newspaper – privilege against disclosure of source . .
CitedUpmann v Elkan CA 5-Jun-1871
The defendant freight forwarding agent was innocently in possession of consignments of counterfeit cigars in transit to Germany through a London dock. The action was not for discovery, but for an order restraining the forwarder from releasing the . .
CitedAnnesley v Earl of Anglesea 1743
‘no private obligations can dispense with that universal one which lies on every member of the society to discover every design which may be formed, contrary to the laws of the society, to destroy the public welfare.’ . .
CitedWoodward v Hutchins CA 1977
An injunction was sought to restrain publication of confidential information about a well-known pop group, starring Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck. As the group’s press agent, the defendant’s role had been to see that the group received . .
Appeal fromBritish Steel Corporation v Granada Television Ltd CA 7-May-1980
Lord Denning MR said that the Norwich Pharmacal case opened ‘a new chapter in our law’ and ‘Mr Irvine suggested this was limited to cases where the injured person desired to sue the wrongdoer. I see no reason why it should be so limited. The same . .

Cited by:
CitedAshworth Security Hospital v MGN Limited HL 27-Jun-2002
Order for Journalist to Disclose Sources
The newspaper published details of the medical records of Ian Brady, a prisoner and patient of the applicant. The applicant sought an order requiring the defendant newspaper to disclose the identity of the source of material which appeared to have . .
CitedLion Laboratories Ltd v Evans CA 1985
Lion Laboratories manufactured and marketed the Lion Intoximeter which was used by the police for measuring blood alcohol levels of motorists. Two ex-employees approached the Press with four documents taken from Lion. The documents indicated that . .
CitedHyde Park Residence Ltd v Yelland, News Group Newspapers Ltd, News International Ltd, Murrell CA 10-Feb-2000
The court considered a dispute about ownership and confidence in and copyright of of video tapes taken by Princess Diana before her death.
Held: The courts have an inherent discretion to refuse to enforce of copyright. When assessing whether . .
CitedMohamed, Regina (on the Application of) v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (No 1) Admn 21-Aug-2008
The claimant had been detained by the US in Guantanamo Bay suspected of terrorist involvement. He sought to support his defence documents from the respondent which showed that the evidence to be relied on in the US courts had been obtained by . .
CitedMedia Cat Ltd v Adams and Others PCC 18-Apr-2011
The claimants had begun copyright infringement cases. Having been refused a request to be allowed to withdraw the cases as an abuse, their solicitors now faced an application for a wasted costs order.
Held: The court only has jurisdiction to . .
CitedThe Rugby Football Union v Consolidated Information Services Ltd SC 21-Nov-2012
The Union challenged the right of the respondent to resell tickets to international rugby matches. The tickets were subject to a condition rendering it void on any resale at above face value. They said that the respondent had advertised tickets in . .
CitedFarm Assist Ltd v Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (No 2) TCC 19-May-2009
The mediator who had acted in attempting to resolve the dispute between the parties sought to have set aside a witness summons issued by the claimant who sought to have the mediated agreement set aside for economic duress.
Held: In this case . .
CitedCartier International Ag and Others v British Telecommunications Plc and Another SC 13-Jun-2018
The respondent ISP companies had been injuncted to stop the transmission of websites which infringed the trade mark rights of the claimants. The ISPs now appealed from the element of the order that they pay the claimants’ costs of implementing the . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Updated: 29 July 2021; Ref: scu.181347