Buckley v Dalziel: QBD 3 May 2007

There was a heated dispute between neighbours, culminating in some generous or perhaps over-generous pruning by the claimant of the defendant’s trees and shrubs on the boundaries. The defendants reported the matter to the police. Both Mr and Mrs Dalziel made oral complaints to the officer who attended upon them. He later returned and Mr Dalziel made a written statement of his complaint. The claimant sought damages for defamation saying that the allegations were false. The claimant said that less protection should be given to complainants than to witnesses in general.
Held: Complaints to the police were protected by absolute privilege: ‘The public policy consideration applies with equal validity to those who are mere witnesses and to those who are initial complainants. It may be unjust that a malicious informant should be accorded comparable protection, but it is difficult to draw a principled distinction in this respect between malicious witnesses and malicious complainants.’

The test for whether a limitation period in a defamation case should be extended ‘is whether or not it is ‘equitable’ to allow the action to proceed.’ In this, the court decided against extending the time period.


Eady J


[2007] EWHC 1025 (QB), Times 07-Jun-2007, [2007] 1 WLR 2933, [2007] EMLR 624, [2007] EMLR 23




Defamation Act 1996, Limitation Act 1980 12A


England and Wales


CitedWatson v M’Ewan HL 1905
A claim was brought against a medical witness in respect of statements made in preparation of a witness statement and similar statements subsequently made in court. The appellant was a doctor of medicine who had been retained by the respondent in . .
CitedKay and Another v London Borough of Lambeth and others; Leeds City Council v Price and others and others HL 8-Mar-2006
In each case the local authority sought to recover possession of its own land. In the Lambeth case, they asserted this right as against an overstaying former tenant, and in the Leeds case as against gypsies. In each case the occupiers said that the . .
CitedTaylor and Others v Director of The Serious Fraud Office and Others HL 29-Oct-1998
The defendant had requested the Isle of Man authorities to investigate the part if any taken by the plaintiff in a major fraud. No charges were brought against the plaintiff, but the documents showing suspicion came to be disclosed in the later . .
CitedLincoln v Daniels CA 1961
The defendant claimed absolute immunity in respect of communications sent by him to the Bar Council alleging professional misconduct by the plaintiff, a Queen’s Counsel.
Held: Initial communications sent to the secretary of the Bar Council . .
CitedWallersteiner v Moir CA 1974
The making of a declaration is a judicial act. A shareholder is entitled to bring a derivative action on behalf of the company when it is controlled by persons alleged to have injured the company who refuse to allow the company to sue. It is an . .
CitedDaniels v Griffiths CA 27-Nov-1997
The claimant appealed against dismissal of his claim in defamation against the defendant. He was a prisoner convicted of rape and subject to life imprisonment. He sought parole, and said that the defendant had slandered him before the Parole Board. . .
CitedMahon, Kent v Dr Rahn, Biedermann, Haab-Biedermann, Rahn, and Bodmer (a Partnership) (No 2) CA 8-Jun-2000
The defendant’s lawyers wrote to a financial services regulatory body investigating the possible fraudulent conduct of the plaintiff’s stockbroking firm. The letter was passed to the Serious Fraud Office who later brought criminal proceedings . .
CitedSteedman, Clohosy, Smith, Kiernan, Newman, Creevy, Anderson v The British Broadcasting Corporation CA 23-Oct-2001
The claimants had issued defamation proceedings. The defendant said they were out of time, having begun the action more than one year after the alleged publication, but accepted that they had not been prejudiced in their defence. The court refused . .

Cited by:

CitedWestcott v Westcott QBD 30-Oct-2007
The claimant said that his daughter in law had defamed him. She answered that the publication was protected by absolute privilege. She had complained to the police that he had hit her and her infant son.
Held: ‘the process of taking a witness . .
CitedAlexandrovic v Khan QBD 2008
The public policy priority is that those who have complaints should be free to make them to the police without fear that they will be challenged in later proceedings even if those who are malicious obtain the benefit of such protection, since the . .
CitedWestcott v Westcott CA 15-Jul-2008
The defendant was the claimant’s daughter in law. In the course of a bitter divorce she made allegations to the police which were investigated but did not lead to a prosecution. The claimant appealed dismissal of his claim for defamation on the . .
CitedBewry v Reed Elseveir (UK) Ltd and Another QBD 10-Oct-2013
The claimant had begin proceedings against the defendant legal publishers, saying that their summary of a cash had brought was defamatory. He now sought leave to extend the limitation period for his claim, and the defendants argued that, given the . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Defamation, Limitation

Updated: 07 December 2022; Ref: scu.251796