S and M v United Kingdom: ECHR 1993

The defendants to an action in defamation by McDonalds, who were acting in person, sought to make a complaint to the Strasbourg Court that the proceedings infringed their Article 10 rights of freedom of expression. One ground was that the law of the United Kingdom did not place ‘restrictions on damages’ which might be awarded.
Held: The complaint was ‘manifestly ill-founded’: ‘ . . the freedom conferred by Article 10 of the Convention is not of an absolute, unfettered nature. It does not authorise the publication of defamatory material. On the contrary, the second paragraph of Article 10 offers specific protection for the ‘reputation or rights of others’. McDonalds are, therefore, entitled to seek the determination of their civil rights to a good reputation and, if successful, the protection of that reputation against an alleged libel. Similarly the applicants are entitled to defend themselves against McDonald’s writ in the determination of their civil right to free speech and fair comment in matters of public interest. . . . The Commission does not find that the matters which may involve the responsibility of the respondent Government under the Convention, namely a lack of legal aid, simplified procedures or restrictions on damages, essentially interfere with the applicants’ freedom of expression. They have published their views, upon which there was no prior restraint, and, if those views are subsequently found to be libellous, any ensuing sanctions would in principle be justified for the protection of the reputation and rights, within the meaning of Article 10(2) of the Convention.’


(1993) 18 EHRR CD 172


Human Rights

Cited by:

CitedJameel and Another v Wall Street Journal Europe Sprl (No 2) CA 3-Feb-2005
The claimant sought damages for an article published by the defendant, who argued that as a corporation, the claimant corporation needed to show special damage, and also that the publication had qualified privilege.
Held: ‘It is an established . .
CitedJameel v Wall Street Journal Europe Sprl HL 11-Oct-2006
The House was asked as to the capacity of a limited company to sue for damage to its reputation, where it had no trading activity within the jurisdiction, and as to the extent of the Reynolds defence. The defendants/appellants had published an . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Human Rights, Defamation

Updated: 16 May 2022; Ref: scu.223402