Lachaux v Independent Print Ltd: QBD 30 Jul 2015

The claimant brought defamation claims as to articles making allegations said to imply that the claimant had mistreated his wife. The defendant contended that, while inferences might sometimes suffice, s.1 (1) nevertheless required a claimant to prove on the balance of probabilities that he had suffered, or would be likely to suffer, serious reputational harm, and further that serious reputational harm could be expected to give rise to identifiable adverse consequences: and if no evidence of such consequences was adduced then the court should not be ready to conclude that there was serious reputational harm. Overall, it was said that the claimant’s interpretation was too restrictive and failed to give effect to the Parliamentary intention to eliminate claims not meeting the threshold of seriousness.
Held: Section 1(1) had the effect of making a publication not defamatory unless serious harm would have been or was caused to the reputation of the claimant. It was for the claimant to establish those facts.
If a defendant raised an issue that the harm was too slight to justify a claim then it would usually be preferable to try the matter as a preliminary issue.
‘In my judgment this approach [of the defendants] leads to the clear conclusion that in enacting s.1(1) Parliament intended to do more than just raise the threshold for defamation from a tendency to cause ‘substantial’ to ‘serious’ reputational harm. The intention was that claimants should have to go beyond showing a tendency to harm reputation. It is now necessary to prove as a fact on the balance of probabilities that serious reputational harm has been caused by, or is likely to result in future from, the publication complained of.’
. . And that the claimant’s arguments did not sufficiently account for the presence of the words ‘has caused’; and that s.1(1) had ‘subsumed all or most of the Jameel jurisdiction into a new and stiffer statutory test requiring consideration of actual harm’.
He continued: ‘In arriving at my conclusions I have given careful thought to Ms Page’s submissions that they involve imputing to Parliament – contrary to principle – an intention to revolutionise defamation law by implication, and to do so in a way that in practice risks defeating Parliament’s intention by making litigation in this area more, not less, expensive and complex. I regard both submissions as alarmist and ill-founded. I acknowledge the presumption against implied repeal of the common law. But I do not accept that my construction of s.1(1) is as radical as is suggested, or that it involves the dramatic consequences attributed to it by the claimant’s counsel. To the extent that my construction does involve the implied repeal or amendment of common law principles, an intention to achieve that is, in my judgment, necessarily implicit in Parliament’s choice of language.’
And he said this: ‘I accept that my construction of s.1(1) means that libel is no longer actionable without proof of damage, and that the legal presumption of damage will cease to play any significant role. These, however, are necessary consequences of what I regard as the natural and ordinary, indeed the obvious meaning of s.1(1). They are, moreover, consequences which had in practice already been brought about by previous developments. The HRA and the emergence of the Jameel jurisdiction which substantially eroded if they did not wholly undermine these common law rules. Since Jameel it has no longer been accurate other than technically to describe libel as actionable without proof of any damage. I cannot see this as a substantial argument against my construction of the statute.’
Warby J
[2015] EWHC 2242 (QB), [2016] 2 WLR 437, [2015] WLR(D) 345, [2015] EMLR 28, [2016] 4 All ER 140, [2016] QB 402
Bailii, WLRD
Defamation Act 2013 1(1)
England and Wales
See AlsoLachaux v Independent Print Ltd QBD 11-Mar-2015
Judgment as to meaning of certain of the phrases founding the defamation action.
Held: The articles were held to have meant (inter alia) that Mr Lachaux had been violent and abusive towards his wife during their marriage, had hidden Louis’ . .
See AlsoLachaux v Independent Print Ltd QBD 1-Apr-2015
The claimant alleged defamation by the three defendant news organisations. The defendants now sought trial of certain preliminary issues, and particularly whether the claimant had suffered any serious harm to his reputation.
Held: The court . .
See AlsoLachaux v Independent Print Ltd and Others QBD 29-Jun-2015
Orders allowing extension of time for service of the Particulars of Claim. . .

Cited by:
See AlsoLachaux v Independent Print Ltd/ Evening Standard Ltd QBD 18-Dec-2015
In each of these libel actions the Claimant applied for an order for the delivery up of documents which he claimed were the subject of legal professional privilege but which have been obtained by the Defendants from his former wife, Ms Lachaux, in . .
CitedEconomou v De Freitas QBD 27-Jul-2016
Failed action for defamation on rape allegations
The claimant had been accused by the defendant’s daughter of rape. He was never charged but sought to prosecute her alleging intent to pervert the course of justice. She later killed herself. The defendant sought to have the inquest extended to . .
Appeal fromLachaux 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 . .
See AlsoLachaux v Independent Print Ltd (2) CA 12-Sep-2017
The court was asked whether the defendants and their solicitors may retain and make use of information contained in documents which are said by the claimant to be confidential and the subject of legal professional privilege . .
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 . .
See AlsoLachaux v Independent Print Ltd and Another SC 12-Jun-2019
Need to Show Damage Increased by 2013 Act
The claimant alleged defamation by three publishers. The articles were held to have defamatory meaning, but the papers argued that the defamations did not reach the threshold of seriousness in section 1(1) of the 2013 Act.
Held: Section 1 of . .
CitedAhuja v Politika Novine I Magazini Doo and Others QBD 23-Nov-2015
Action for misuse of private information and libel. Application to have set aside leave to serve out of the jurisdiction. The defendant published a newspaper in Serbian, in print in Serbia and online. Though in Serbian, the claimant said that online . .

These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 12 March 2021; Ref: scu.550922