Polly Peck PLC v Trelford: CA 1986

The plaintiffs complained of the whole of one article and parts of two other articles published about them in The Observer. The defamatory sting was that Mr Asil Nadir (the fourth plaintiff) had deceived or negligently misled shareholders, investors, and members of the general public as to the operation of the first three plaintiffs, which were companies run, but not controlled, by him. The defendants sought, inter alia, to justify in their defence allegations in the second and third articles of which the plaintiffs had not made complaint. They pleaded that the words complained of were fair comment on a matter of public interest and/or were true in substance and in fact, and set out 54 particulars of fair comment and justification.
Held: Where a publication contains two or more separate and distinct defamatory statements, the plaintiff is entitled to select one of them for complaint, and the defendant is not entitled to assert the truth of the other(s) by way of justification. ‘In my judgment Section 5 plainly requires the distinct charges against the plaintiff to be founded on separate words, and these must be contained in the passages of which the plaintiff complains.’ An important principle ‘is that the trial of the action should concern itself with the essential issues and the evidence relevant thereto and that public policy and the interest of the parties require that the trial should be kept strictly to the issues necessary for a fair determination of the dispute between the parties.’


O’Connor LJ


[1986] QB 1000


Defamation Act 1952 5


England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedBasham v Gregory and Little Brown and Co CA 2-Jul-1998
The defendant sought a retrial of his action for defamation.
Held: The judge’s directions on meaning as to the respective contentions was correct, and also the allocation of the burden of proof. Whilst the court had reservations about the . .
CitedKhashoggi v IPC Magazines Ltd CA 1986
The plaintiff sought to restrain the publication of an article. The defendants asserted that they would justify what they said at trial by reference to a Polly Peck defence, as to which: ‘I cannot see why the Bonnard v Perryman principle should not . .
CitedGreene v Associated Newspapers Ltd CA 5-Nov-2004
The claimant appealed against refusal of an order restraining publication by the respondent of an article about her. She said that it was based upon an email falsely attributed to her.
Held: ‘in an action for defamation a court will not impose . .
CitedTesco Stores Ltd v Guardian News and Media Ltd and Another QBD 29-Jul-2008
The defendant newspaper published articles making allegations as to the use of offshore tax avoidance arrangements. The claimant sought damages also in malicious falsehood. The defendants sought to rely on an offer of amends served only a few . .
CitedMcKeith v News Group Newspapers Ltd QBD 14-Jun-2005
. .
CitedRechem International Ltd v Express Newspapers CA 19-Jun-1992
Neill LJ said: ‘A balance has to be struck between the legitimate defence of free speech and free comment on the one hand and on the other hand the costs which may be involved if every peripheral issue is examined and debated at the trial.’ and . .
CitedPrince Radu of Hohenzollern v Houston and Another (No 4) QBD 4-Mar-2009
Orders were sought to strike out part of the defendants defence of justification to an allegation of defamation.
Held: Where there remains the possibility of a jury trial, it becomes especially important to identify the issues the jurors are . .
CitedThornton v Telegraph Media Group Ltd QBD 16-Jun-2010
The claimant said that a review of her book was defamatory and a malicious falsehood. The defendant now sought summary judgment or a ruling as to the meaning of the words complained of.
Held: The application for summary judgment succeeded. The . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Updated: 12 May 2022; Ref: scu.185256