Fiddes v Channel Four Television Corporation and Others: CA 29 Jun 2010

The claimants in a defamation case made an interlocutory appeal against an order for trial by judge alone. The parties had agreed for trial by jury, but the defendants made a late application for trial by judge alone.
Held: The claimant’s appeal failed. The right to a trial by jury is a constitutional right subject to the conditions in section 69. Nevertheless there were advantages to trial by judge including the availability of a reasoned judgment and the reduction in cost. Taking account of the extent of documentation involved and other relevant factors, the conclusion that the matter fell within the conditions was inescapable.
Lord Neuberger MR spoke of the principles appliccable on hearing an application for jury trial iin a defamation case: There are, however, four factors which have been identified in the earlier cases, which have some general application and which are presently relevant, as the judge recognised:
(1) The emphasis now is against trial by juries, and this should be taken into account by the court when exercising its discretion (Goldsmith v Pressdram (supra) at page 68 per Lawton LJ with whom Slade LJ expressly agreed). This conclusion is based on section 69(3), which was a new section appearing for the first time in the 1981 Act to replace section 6(1) of the Administration of Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1933, the provision in force at the date when Rothermere v Times Newspapers was decided.
(2) An important consideration in favour of a jury arises where, as here, the case involves prominent figures in public life and questions of great national interest . .
(3) The fact that the case involves issues of credibility, and that a party’s honour and integrity are under attack is a factor which should properly be taken into account but is not an overriding factor in favour of trial by jury . .
(4) The advantage of a reasoned judgment is a factor properly to be taken into account . .’

Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury MR, Maurice Kay VP, Sedley LJJ
[2010] EWCA Civ 730, [2010] WLR (D) 163, [2010] 1 WLR 2245
Bailii, WLRD
Senior Courts Act 1981 69(1)
England and Wales
CitedViscount de L’Isle v Times Newspapers Ltd CA 1988
May LJ said that the three questions which a Judge has to decide under section 69 so as to conclude whether a defamation trial should by by jury or judge alone, ‘requires a value judgment, based on what he is told by counsel, and his experience at . .
CitedGoldsmith v Pressdram Ltd CA 1988
The court considered whether to order a defamation trial to be before a judge alone, or with a jury.
Held: The word ‘examination’ has a wide connotation, is not limited to the documents which contain the actual evidence in the case and . .
See AlsoFiddes v Channel 4 TV Corporation and Another CA 24-Mar-2010
. .
CitedRight Hon Aitken MP and Preston; Pallister and Guardian Newspapers Ltd CA 15-May-1997
The defendants appealed against an order that a defamation trial should proced before a judge alone.
Held: ‘Where the parties, or one of them, is a public figure, or there are matters of national interest in question, this would suggest the . .
CitedBeta Construction Ltd v Channel Four Television Co Ltd CA 1990
When considering the number of documents to be considered when deciding whether a defamation case should proceed before a judge or judge and jury, the court was entitled to look also at any specialised technical content of the documents and also . .

Cited by:
CitedCook v Telegraph Media Group Ltd QBD 29-Mar-2011
The claimant, an MP, complained in defamation of the defendant’s description of his rejected expenses claim regarding an assistant’s charitable donation. The paper pleaded a Reynolds defence. The claimant said that when published the defendant knew . .
CitedMcGrath v Independent Print Ltd QBD 26-Jul-2013
The claimant alleged defamation in an article on the defendant’s web-site discussing a failure of his earlier defamation action. He now sought directions for a jury trial. . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Defamation, Litigation Practice

Updated: 02 November 2021; Ref: scu.418430