Clift v Slough Borough Council: CA 21 Dec 2010

The court was asked how, if at all, the Human Rights Act 1998 has affected a local authority’s defence of qualified privilege in defamation cases. The claimant had been placed on the Council’s Violent Persons Register after becoming very upset and angry with several council officials and expressing it. The Council had defended the consequent defamation action pleading qualified priviege and justification. The claimant had argued that the defence of qualified privilege could not now be used by a Council, since as a public authority it was bound to act in accordance with her human Rights. The Council now appealed against a ruling that ‘the Council does not have a qualified privilege defence (1) in relation to publication to their employees in Licensing, Food and Safety and Children and Education Services who, although they were ‘customer facing staff’, were not likely to be approached by the claimant and (2) also in relation to Community Wardens, Trade Union Officials and anyone in the four Partner Organisations.’
Held: Where the publisher is a public authority, in order to be protected by qualified privilege the publication must be consistent with its public law duties and in accordance with its obligations under the Human Rights Act.
Ward, Thomas, Richards LJJ
[2011] 3 All ER 118, [2011] EMLR 271, [2011] 1 WLR 1774, [2010] All ER (D) 243, [2010] EWCA Civ 1484, [2011] PTSR 990
Human Rights Act 1998
England and Wales
CitedAdam v Ward HL 1917
The plaintiff, Major Adam MP, falsely attacked General Scobell in a speech in the House of Commons, thus bringing his charge into the national arena. The Army Council investigated the charge, rejected it and directed their secretary, Sir E Ward, the . .
CitedKearns and Others v The General Council of the Bar CA 17-Mar-2003
The claimants had sought to recover from the General Council of the Bar damages for libel in a communication from the head of the Bar Council’s Professional Standards and Legal Services Department to all heads of chambers, their senior clerks and . .
CitedToogood v Spyring 1834
Qualified Privilege of Bona Fide Words Under Duty
The defence of qualified privilege arises where the statement in question was bona fide and without malicious intent to injure: ‘In general, an action lies for the malicious publication of statements which are false in fact, and injurious to the . .
CitedRegina (X) v Chief Constable of West Midlands Police CA 30-Jul-2004
The claimant had been accused of offences, but the prosecution had been discontinued when the child victims had failed to identify him. The police had nevertheless notified potential employers and he had been unable to obtain work as a social . .
CitedClift v Slough Borough Council and Another QBD 6-Jul-2009
The claimant sought damages for defamation. The council had decided that she had threatened a member of staff and notified various people, and entered her name on a violent persons register. She alleged malice, the council pleaded justification and . .
CitedW v Westminster City Council and Others QBD 9-Dec-2004
The claimant sought to bring an action for defamation based upon communications made in a child protection conference. The reference was in a Report for Conference to be held pursuant to the duties imposed on local authorities by the Children Act . .
CitedWood v Chief Constable West Midlands Police CA 8-Dec-2004
The claimant was a director of a limited company. A Detective Chief Inspector with responsibility for crime prevention was investigating a series of car thefts and arrested the claimant’s business partner and, before the accused had even stood his . .

Cited by:
CitedLewis v Commissioner of Police of The Metropolis and Others (Rev 1) QBD 31-Mar-2011
The defendant sought a ruling on the meaning of the words but using section 69(4) of the 1981 Act. The claimant solicitor was acting in complaints as to the unlawful interception of celebrity voicemails by agents of the press. There had been debate . .

These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 04 March 2021; Ref: scu.428237