Cooke and Another v MGN Ltd and Another: QBD 13 Aug 2014

The claimants made a television programme about the lives of people on benefits. The defendant published an article critical of many, and included a statement ‘Three more homes in the road where residents claim they have been portrayed as scroungers and lowlife by Channel 4 are owned by the Midland Heart housing association. Its chief Ruth Cooke, 45, earns 179,000 pounds a year and lives in a large house in Stroud, Glos.’ The court was now asked whether these words carried defamatory meanings. The defendants argued that no serious harm would result as now required by the 2013 Act.
Held: The date from which one looks backwards (to see whether substantial harm has been caused) or forwards (to see whether substantial harm is likely to be caused) is the date on which the claim is issued. However, the claimants had brought no specific evidence that the Article had cause serious harm, and such could not be inferred, and nor was there evidence that such harm was more likely than not in the future.
Evidence was not required in every case to satisfy the ‘serious harm’ test. there is, in contrast with, say, financial damage or physical damage, no generally accepted way of ascertaining the extent of actual or likely reputational damage. Bean J said: ‘I do not accept that in every case evidence will be required to satisfy the serious harm test. Some statements are so obviously likely to cause serious harm to a person’s reputation that this likelihood can be inferred. If a national newspaper with a large circulation wrongly accuses someone of being a terrorist or a paedophile, then in either case (putting to one side for the moment the question of a prompt and prominent apology) the likelihood of serious harm to reputation is plain, even if the individual’s family and friends know the allegation to be untrue. In such a case the matter would be taken no further by requiring the claimant to incur the expense of commissioning an opinion poll survey, or to produce a selection of comments from the blogosphere which might in any event be unrepresentative of the population of ‘right thinking people’ generally. . . ‘

Bean J
[2014] EWHC 2831 (QB), [2014] WLR(D) 379, [2014] EMLR 31, [2015] 1 WLR 895, [2015] 2 All ER 622
Defamation Act 2013 1
England and Wales
CitedSlim v Daily Telegraph Ltd CA 1968
Courts to Settle upon a single meaning if disputed
The ‘single meaning’ rule adopted in the law of defamation is in one sense highly artificial, given the range of meanings the impugned words sometimes bear. The law of defamation ‘has passed beyond redemption by the courts’. Where in a libel action . .
CitedJeynes v News Magazines Ltd and Another CA 31-Jan-2008
Whether Statement defamatory at common law
The claimant appealed against a striking out of her claim for defamation on finding that the words did not have the defamatory meaning complained of, namely that she was transgendered or transsexual.
Held: The appeal failed.
Sir Anthony . .
CitedCairns v Modi CA 31-Oct-2012
Three appeals against the levels of damages awards were heard together, and the court considered the principles to be applied.
Held: In assessing compensation following a libel, the essential question was how much loss and damage did the . .

Cited by:
Part criticisedLachaux v Independent Print Ltd (1) CA 12-Sep-2017
Defamation – presumption of damage after 2013 Act
The claimant said that the defendant had published defamatory statements which were part of a campaign of defamation brought by his former wife. The court now considered the requirement for substantiality in the 2013 Act.
Held: The defendant’s . .
CitedTheedom v Nourish Training (T/A Recruitment Colin Sewell) QBD 11-Dec-2015
The Court heard preliminary issues both as to the defamatory meaning of the words used and as to whether publication of those words had caused or was likely to cause serious harm pursuant to s.1 (1) of the 2013 Act.
Held: Following Cooke and . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Updated: 09 November 2021; Ref: scu.535717