Rath v Guardian News and Media Ltd and Another: QBD 5 Mar 2008

The Claimant requested summary judgment on the fair comment defence to his defamation claim which was pleaded by the Defendant: ‘the Claimant’s conduct in relation to the false claims and criticisms has contributed in large part to a madness which has let perhaps hundreds of thousands of people die unnecessarily.’
Held: The court reviewed the authorities. Tugendhat J recited the reasons given by the Defendant for saying that the words were clearly comment. First was that the nature of the column supported that interpretation: it was not a news column but an opinion piece. The judge accepted that: ‘The Defendants have a real prospect of persuading the court that the statement (that the Claimant had contributed to letting people die unnecessarily) is something which the reasonable reader can recognise as comment in the sense that the statement is, or can reasonably be inferred to be, a deduction, inference, conclusion, criticism, remark or observation.’
The decision in Kemsley had been ‘overtaken’ by section 6 of the Defamation Act 1952, and he could not conclude that the defendants had no real prospect of proving any of the statements of fact upon which they relied. He could not conclude either that the defendants had no real prospect of succeeding in their plea in reliance upon section 6.


Tugendhat J


[2008] EWHC 398 (QB)




England and Wales


CitedLucas-Box v News Group Newspapers Ltd; Polly Peck (Holdings) Plc v Trelford, Viscount De L’Isle v Times Newspapers Ltd CA 1986
Justification To be Clearly Set Out
The former practice which dictated that a defendant who wished to rely on a different meaning in support of a plea of justification or fair comment, did not have to set out in his defence the meaning on which he based his plea, was ill-founded and . .
CitedCruise and Another v Express Newspapers Plc and Another CA 22-Jul-1998
The Court of Appeal should always be reluctant to reverse an interlocutory finding of a judge at first instance that the words alleged to be libellous are capable of bearing the defamatory meaning alleged. . .

Cited by:

CitedThornton v Telegraph Media Group Ltd QBD 12-Nov-2009
The claimant sought damages for an article in the defendant’s newspaper, a review of her book which said she had falsely claimed to have interviewed artists including the review author and that the claimant allowed interviewees control over what was . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Updated: 14 July 2022; Ref: scu.266528