Shufflebottom v Allday: 1857

The defendant had been robbed. He described the robber to a constable who arrested the plaintiff. Seeing him in custody, the defendant said: ‘That is the man’. After having been remanded in custody for two days, the plaintiff was then acquitted because the defendant failed to appear at his trial. The defendant procured a new warrant for the apprehension of the plaintiff on the same charge. The plaintiff was brought before the magistrates but the defendant again failed to appear and the plaintiff was again discharged. The defendant issued yet a third warrant for the plaintiff’s arrest, but the agreed not to proceed. The plaintiff brought an action for false imprisonment, slander and malicious prosecution. His action succeeded at the trial, the trial judge holding that what the defendant said to the constable was not privileged. The defendant appealed.
Held: The occasion was privileged.
Pollock CB thought the verdict on the second count (slander) should be entered for the defendant, saying: ‘This case differs entirely from that which was cited, Toogood v Spyring, where the person to whom the defendant stated he had been robbed by the plaintiff was a perfect stranger to the transaction, and there was no duty or authority for communicating the party’s suspicions to him. The defendant having been robbed, had a perfect right to say, acting on his belief, that the person in custody was the man. If he had sought to load him with obloquy, as for example, if he had said that he had been robbed by him on other occasions, that would have been merely gratuitous, and no privilege would have applied to it.’
Martin B thought the occasion was privileged: ‘The statement was made to an officer of the law, and was one the defendant was entitled to make. In Toogood v Spyring Park, B., said that ‘If fairly warranted by any reasonable occasion or exigency and honestly made, such communications are protected for the common convenience and welfare of society; and the law has not restricted the right to make them within narrow limits.’


Pollock CB, Martin B


(1857) 5 WR 315

Cited by:

CitedWestcott v Westcott CA 15-Jul-2008
The defendant was the claimant’s daughter in law. In the course of a bitter divorce she made allegations to the police which were investigated but did not lead to a prosecution. The claimant appealed dismissal of his claim for defamation on the . .
CitedHasselblad (GB) Ltd v Orbison CA 1985
In the course of proceedings brought by the European Commission against Hasselblad, Mr Orbison wrote a letter to the Commission upon which the appellant then sued for damages for libel. The court considered the dangers of national and European . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Updated: 15 May 2022; Ref: scu.270826