Marrinan v Vibert: QBD 1963

The plaintiff brought an action claiming damages for conspiracy against two police officers alleging they had conspired together to make false statements defamatory of him as a barrister.
Held: The claim was struck out. Even a conspiracy to make false statements in court will be protected, not for the sake of the witnesses, but ‘for the benefit of the public, since the administration of justice would be greatly impeded if witnesses were to be in fear that any disgruntled and possibly impecunious persons against whom they gave evidence might subsequently involve them in costly litigation’.
The gist of the tort of conspiracy was not the conspiratorial agreement alone, but that agreement plus the overt act of causing damage and the evidence given was an act done in pursuance of the agreement.
Salmon J said: ‘It is true that in nearly all the reported cases in which the principles to which I have alluded were laid down, the form of action was for damages for libel or slander, but in my judgment these principles in no way depend upon the form of action. In Hargreaves v Bretherton [1959] 1 Q.B. 45, an unsuccessful attempt was made to evade the immunity to which I have referred by suing for damages for perjury. Counsel for the plaintiff attempted to distinguish that case on the ground that an action for damages for perjury is unknown to the law, whereas an action for damages for conspiracy is of respectable lineage. As far as it goes, the distinction is a sound one. It does not, however, affect the point that Hargreaves v Bretherton demonstrates that the immunity to which I have referred is not only an immunity to be sued for damages in libel or slander. The immunity, in my judgment, is an immunity from any form of civil action.’


Salmon J


[1963] 1 QB 234


CitedHargreaves v Bretherton 1959
The Plaintiff pleaded that the First Defendant police officer had falsely and maliciously and without justification or excuse committed perjury at the Plaintiff’s trial on charges of criminal offences and that as a result the Plaintiff had been . .

Cited by:

Appeal fromMarrinan v Vibert CA 2-Jan-1963
A tortious conspiracy was alleged in the conduct of a civil action. The plaintiff appealed against rejection of his claim.
Held: The appeal failed as an attempt to circumvent the immunity of a wirness in defamation by framing a claim in . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Torts – Other, Defamation

Updated: 11 May 2022; Ref: scu.519355