The House was asked as to the capacity of a limited company to sue for damage to its reputation, where it had no trading activity within the jurisdiction, and as to the extent of the Reynolds defence. The defendants/appellants had published an article which was said falsely to associate the claimants with terrorist activity.
Held: The ability to publish an article which was in its nature defamatory but where there were proper matters of public concern, and where the defendant had taken reasonable steps to verify its contents, was not to be lost only because steps had not been taken to obtain a coment on the proposed article from the claimant before publication. ‘the good name of a company, as that of an individual, is a thing of value. A damaging libel may lower its standing in the eyes of the public and even its own staff, make people less ready to deal with it, less willing or less proud to work for it. If this were not so, corporations would not go to the lengths they do to protect and burnish their corporate images. I find nothing repugnant in the notion that this is a value which the law should protect. Nor do I think it an adequate answer that the corporation can itself seek to answer the defamatory statement by press release or public statement, since protestations of innocence by the impugned party necessarily carry less weight with the public than the prompt issue of proceedings which culminate in a favourable verdict by judge or jury. Secondly, I do not accept that a publication, if truly damaging to a corporation’s commercial reputation, will result in provable financial loss, since the more prompt and public a company’s issue of proceedings, and the more diligent its pursuit of a claim, the less the chance that financial loss will actually accrue. ‘
Lord Hoffmann distinguished between reportage cases and those where the published would rely on a Reynolds privilege: ‘In most cases the Reynolds defence will not get off the ground unless the journalist honestly and reasonably believed that the statement was true, but there are cases (‘reportage’) in which the public interest lies simply in the fact that the statement was made, when it may be clear that the publisher does not subscribe to any belief in its truth.’
Lord Bingham of Cornhill, Lord Hoffmann, Lord Hope of Craighead, Lord Scott of Foscote, Baroness Hale of Richmond
Times 12-Oct-2006,  UKHL 44,  3 WLR 642,  AC 359,  Bus LR 291,  EMLR 2,  EMLR 14,  4 All ER 1279, 21 BHRC 471,  HRLR 41
England and Wales
At First Instance – Jameel, Abdul Latif Jameel Company Limited v The Wall Street Journal Europe Sprl QBD 2003
Appeal From – Jameel and Another v Wall Street Journal Europe Sprl (No 2) CA 3-Feb-2005
The claimant sought damages for an article published by the defendant, who argued that as a corporation, the claimant corporation needed to show special damage, and also that the publication had qualified privilege.
Held: ‘It is an established . .
At First Instance – Jameel, Abdul Latif Jameel Company Limited v The Wall Street Journal Europe SPRL QBD 20-Jan-2004
It is almost inevitable that in a Reynolds privilege case to be tried by jury there will be presented to them a list of questions, sometimes no doubt formidably long. The object is to enable the judge to have the factual matrix upon which to make . .
Cited – Reynolds v Times Newspapers Ltd and others HL 28-Oct-1999
Fair Coment on Political Activities
The defendant newspaper had published articles wrongly accusing the claimant, the former Prime Minister of Ireland of duplicity. The paper now appealed, saying that it should have had available to it a defence of qualified privilege because of the . .
Cited – South Hetton Coal Company Ltd v North Eastern News Association Limited CA 1894
The plaintiff company sued for defamation in respect of an article which alleged that it neglected its workforce. The defendants contended that no action for libel would lie on the part of a company unless actual pecuniary damage was proved.
Cited – Lewis v Daily Telegraph Ltd HL 1964
Ascertaining Meaning of Words for Defamation
The Daily Telegraph had published an article headed ‘Inquiry on Firm by City Police’ and the Daily Mail had published an article headed ‘Fraud Squad Probe Firm’. The plaintiffs claimed that those articles carried the meaning that they were guilty of . .
Cited – Derbyshire County Council v Times Newspapers Ltd and Others QBD 1991
The defendant published articles suggesting links between the Council and certain businessmen. The Council sued in defamation. The defendant argued that a local authority should not be able to sue for defamation.
Held: Applying South Hetton, . .
Cited – Derbyshire County Council v Times Newspapers Ltd and Others CA 19-Apr-1992
In two issues of ‘The Sunday Times’ newspaper on 17 and 24 September 1989 there appeared articles concerning share deals involving the superannuation fund of the Derbyshire County Council. The articles in the issue of 17 September were headed . .
Cited – National Union of General and Municipal Workers v Gillian 1946
A non-trading corporation (a trade union) which had been assimilated to a trading corporation sought damages for defamation. . .
Cited – Steel and Morris v United Kingdom ECHR 15-Feb-2005
The applicants had been sued in defamation by McDonalds. They had no resources, and English law precluded legal aid for such cases. The trial was the longest in English legal history. They complained that the non-availablility of legal aid infringed . .
Cited – Jameel, Abdul Latif Jameel Company Limited v The Wall Street Journal Europe Sprl (No 1) CA 26-Nov-2003
The court considered the levels of meaning in an article falsely connecting the claimant with terrorist activity: ‘Once it is recognised that the article may be asserting no more than that in one way or another the respondents may unwittingly have . .
Cited – S and M v United Kingdom ECHR 1993
The defendants to an action in defamation by McDonalds, who were acting in person, sought to make a complaint to the Strasbourg Court that the proceedings infringed their Article 10 rights of freedom of expression. One ground was that the law of the . .
Cited – Shevill and Others v Presse Alliance SA HL 26-Jul-1996
A libel case against a French paper was rightly brought in UK despite the small (250 copies nationally and 5 in the plaintiff’s local area (Yorkshire)) circulation here. The Brussels Convention allows a claim for defamation in UK though the main . .
Cited – Derbyshire County Council v Times Newspapers Ltd and Others HL 18-Feb-1993
Local Council may not Sue in Defamation
Local Authorities must be open to criticism as political and administrative bodies, and so cannot be allowed to sue in defamation. Such a right would operate as ‘a chill factor’ on free speech. Freedom of speech was the underlying value which . .
Cited – Harrison v Bush 1855
The office of Secretary of State is in theory one and indivisible.
Lord Campbell CJ stated: ‘In practice, to the Secretary of State for the Home Department . . belongs peculiarly the maintenance of the peace within the kingdom, with the . .
Cited – Markt Intern Verlag Gmbh And Klaus Beermann v Germany ECHR 20-Nov-1989
Cited – Webb v Times Publishing Co Ltd 1960
The Times newspaper published a report of the criminal trial in Switzerland of a British subject. When sued in defamation they sought to rely upon the defence of fair reporting of judicial proceedings.
Held: A blanket protection for reporting . .
Cited – Cox v Feeny 1863
Cited – Allbutt v General Council of Medical Education and Registration CA 1889
The defendant had published a book with minutes of a meeting of the council recording that the plaintiff’s name had been removed from the medical register for infamous professional conduct. This followed an inquiry at which the plaintiff had been . .
Cited – Perera v Peiris PC 1949
Qualified privilege claim upheld
(Ceylon) The ‘Ceylon Daily News’ had published extracts from a report of the Bribery Commission which was critical of Dr. Perera’s lack of frankness in his evidence. The Judicial Committee upheld a claim to qualified privilege. In the light of the . .
Cited – Watt v Longsdon 1930
Cited – Pullman v Hill and Co CA 1891
The plaintiff claimed publication of a defamation when the defendant was said to have dictated it to his typist.
Held: That was sufficient publication. The Court considered what would amount to publication in the law of defamation.
Lord . .
Cited – Adam 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 . .
Cited – Bonnick v Morris, The Gleaner Company Ltd and Allen PC 17-Jun-2002
(Jamaica) The appellant sought damages from the respondent journalists in defamation. They had claimed qualified privilege. The words alleged to be defamatory were ambiguous.
Held: The publishers were protected by Reynolds privilege. The court . .
Cited – Roberts and Another v Gable and others CA 12-Jul-2007
The claimants appealed a finding of qualified privilege in their claim of defamation by the defendant author and magazine which was said to have accused them of theft and threats of violence against other members of the BNP.
Held: The appeal . .
Cited – Attorney General’s Reference No 3 of 1999: Application By the British Broadcasting Corporation To Set Aside or Vary a Reporting Restriction Order HL 17-Jun-2009
An application was made to discharge an anonymity order made in previous criminal proceedings before the House. The defendant was to be retried for rape under the 2003 Act, after an earlier acquittal. The applicant questioned whether such a order . .
Cited – Flood v Times Newspapers Ltd QBD 2-Oct-2009
The defendant had published a story in its newspaper. At that time it attracted Reynolds qualified privilege. After the circumstances changed, the paper offered an updating item. That offer was rejected as inadequate.
Held: The qualified . .
Cited – Hays Plc v Hartley QBD 17-May-2010
Mr Hartley operated a news agency, and provided to the publisher of the Sunday Mirror, MGN Ltd, allegations of racism that had been levelled at the claimant company by former employees. The allegations were reported in an article headed ”KKK . .
Cited – Flood v Times Newspapers Ltd CA 13-Jul-2010
The claimant police officer complained of an article he said was defamatory in saying he was being investigated for allegations of accepting bribes. The article remained on the internet even after he was cleared. Each party appealed interim orders. . .
Cited – Baturina v Times Newspapers Ltd CA 23-Mar-2011
The claimant appealed against directions given in her defamation action against the defendant. It had been said that she owned a house, and the defendant said that this was not defamatory. The claimant said that as the wife of the Mayor of Moscow . .
Cited – CTB v News Group Newspapers Ltd and Another (1) QBD 16-May-2011
A leading footballer had obtained an injunction restraining the defendants from publishing his identity and allegations of sexual misconduct. The claimant said that she had demanded money not to go public.
Held: It had not been suggested that . .
Cited – Flood v Times Newspapers Ltd SC 21-Mar-2012
The defendant had published an article which was defamatory of the claimant police officer, saying that he was under investigation for alleged corruption. The inquiry later cleared him. The court was now asked whether the paper had Reynolds type . .
Cited – Chesterton Global Ltd (t/a Chestertons) and Another v Nurmohamed (Victimisation Discrimination: Whistleblowing) EAT 8-Apr-2015
EAT VICTIMISATION DISCRIMINATION
This appeal concerns the meaning of the words ‘in the public interest’ inserted into section 43B(1) of the Employment Rights . .
Cited – Lachaux 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 . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Defamation, Damages, Human Rights
Updated: 02 November 2021; Ref: scu.245333