McCartan Turkington Breen (A Firm) v Times Newspapers Limited: HL 2 Nov 2000

(Northern Ireland) The defendant reported a press conference at which the claims denying the criminal responsibility of an army private were made. The report was severely critical of the claimants, who then sued in defamation. The defendants claimed qualified privilege.
Held: It is necessary in a modern democracy to restrict to as limited extent as is possible, restrictions on freedom of speech and reporting. Accordingly a newspaper report of a press conference could attract qualified privilege against proceedings for defamation. Here a meeting was called for the press in general and any member of the public was allowed in with no restrictions. The circumstances showed an intention to make it a public meeting under the Act.
Lord Steyn said that it is ‘generally permissible and indeed necessary to take into account the place of the statutory provisions in controversy in the broad context of the basic principles of the legal system as it has evolved’ which, in the case in point, was the ‘law of freedom of expression as it exists today’.
Lord Nicholls: ‘ . . it should be kept in mind that one of the contemporary functions of the media is investigative journalism. This activity, as much as the traditional activities of reporting and commenting, is part of the vital role of the press’.

Lord Bingham of Cornhill Lord Steyn Lord Hoffmann Lord Cooke of Thorndon Lord Millett
Times 03-Nov-2000, [2000] UKHL 57, [2001] 2 AC 277, [2000] 4 All ER 913, [2000] 9 BHRC 497, [2000] 3 WLR 1670, [2000] NI 410, [2001] UKHRR 184, [2001] EMLR 1
House of Lords, Bailii
Defamation Act (Northern Ireland) 1955 7, Human Rights Act 1998, Law of Libel Amendment Act 1888, European Convention on Human Rights 10
England and Wales
Appeal fromTurkington and Others (Practising as McCartan Turkington Breen) v Times Newspapers Ltd CANI 11-Nov-1998
A meeting was not a public meeting just because the public attended without objection. A press conference to which press only had had invitations was not as such public, and a report of it was not protected under the Act . .
First instanceMcCartan Turkington Breen v Telegraph Group NIHC 11-May-1998
. .

Cited by:
CitedRegina v Shayler CACD 28-Sep-2001
Duress as Defence not closely Defined
The defendant had been a member of MI5. He had signed the Official Secrets Act, but then disclosed various matters, including material obtained by interceptions under the Interception of Communications Act. He claimed that his disclosures were made . .
CitedLoutchansky v Times Newspapers Limited (No 2) CA 12-Mar-2001
The defendants appealed against a refusal to allow them to amend their pleadings. They wished to include allegations as to matters which were unknown to the journalist at the time of publication.
Held: It is necessary for the defendants to . .
CitedReclaiming Motion In Petition of Scott Davidson for Judicial Review of A Decision To Continue To Detain the Prisoner In Inhuman and Degrading Prison C SCS 18-Dec-2001
A prisoner sought an order for his removal from a prison found to have a regime which breached his human rights. The Crown replied that an order could not be made under s21 of the 1947 Act.
Held: The prisoner had followed through his rights to . .
CitedMersey Care NHS Trust v Ackroyd QBD 7-Feb-2006
The trust, operators of Ashworth Secure Hospital sought from the defendant journalist disclosure of the name of their employee who had revealed to the defendant matters about the holding of Ian Brady, the Moors Murderer, and in particular medical . .
CitedLowe v Associated Newspapers Ltd QBD 28-Feb-2006
The defendant sought to defend the claim for defamation by claiming fair comment. The claimant said that the relevant facts were not known to the defendant at the time of the publication.
Held: To claim facts in aid of a defence of fair . .
CitedNorfolk County Council v Webster and others FD 1-Nov-2006
The claimants wished to claim that they were victims of a miscarriage of justice in the way the Council had dealt with care proceedings. They sought that the proceedings should be reported without the children being identified.
Held: A judge . .
CitedMersey Care NHS Trust v Ackroyd CA 21-Feb-2007
The defendant journalist had published confidential material obtained from the claimant’s secure hospital at Ashworth. The hospital now appealed against the refusal of an order for him to to disclose his source.
Held: The appeal failed. Given . .
CitedTimes Newspapers Ltd v Secretary of State for the Home Department and AY Admn 17-Oct-2008
The newspaper applied to challenge the protection of the identity of the defendant subject to a control order under the 2005 Act. It said that there was no basis for the making of the order without first considering the Human Rights need for open . .
CitedMohamed, Regina (on the Application of) v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (No 4) Admn 4-Feb-2009
In an earlier judgment, redactions had been made relating to reports by the US government of its treatment of the claimant when held by them at Guantanamo bay. The claimant said he had been tortured and sought the documents to support his defence of . .
CitedRoberts and Others v Regina CACD 6-Dec-2018
Sentencing of Political Protesters
The defendants appealed against sentences for causing a public nuisance. They had been protesting against fracking by climbing aboard a lorry and blocking a main road for several days.
Held: The appeals from immediate custodial sentences were . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Defamation, Media, Northern Ireland, Human Rights

Leading Case

Updated: 01 November 2021; Ref: scu.159091