Somerville v Hawkins: 1851

It is necessary for a claimant who wishes to prove malice in an alleged defamation to plead and prove facts which are more consistent with its presence than with its absence. Mawle J said: ‘it is certainly not necessary in order to enable a plaintiff to have the question of malice submitted to the jury, that the evidence should be such as necessarily leads to the conclusion that malice existed, or that it should be inconsistent with the non existence of malice; but it is necessary that the evidence should raise a probability of malice, and be more consistent with its existence than its non existence.’

Mawle J
(1851) 10 CB 583, [1851] EngR 73, (1851) 138 ER 231
England and Wales
Cited by:
AppliedTelnikoff v Matusevitch CA 1991
The court considered the element of malice in a defamation defence: ‘If a piece of evidence is equally consistent with malice and the absence of malice, it cannot as a matter of law provide evidence on which the jury could find malice. The judge . .
CitedMcBride v The Body Shop International Plc QBD 10-Jul-2007
The claimant sought damages for libel in an internal email written by her manager, accusing her of being a compulsive liar. The email had not been disclosed save in Employment Tribunal proceedings, and the claimant sought permission to use the email . .
CitedSeray-Wurie v The Charity Commission of England and Wales QBD 23-Apr-2008
The defendant sought an order to strike out the claimant’s allegations of defamation and other torts. The defendants claimed qualified privilege in that the statements complained of were contained in a report prepared by it in fulfilment of its . .
CitedSmith v ADVFN Plc and others QBD 25-Jul-2008
The claimant had brought multiple actions in defamation against anonymous posters on an online forum. The claimant sought to lift the stay which had been imposed because of the number of actions. The claimant had not yet paid outstanding costs . .
FollowedTurner v Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Ltd (MGM) HL 1950
A letter was published which criticised a film critic’s review of the week’s films.
Held: A person (including a corporation) whose character or conduct has been attacked is entitled to answer the attack, and the answer will be protected by . .
CitedHughes v Risbridger and Another QBD 9-Dec-2009
The defendants, employees of British Airways, sought summary judgement against the claimant in his claim for defamation in several emails. They had discussed the detention of the claimant under suspicion of theft at the airport, and claimed . .
CitedKhader v Aziz and Another QBD 31-Jul-2009
The defendant sought to strike out a claim in defamation. Acting on behalf of his client the solicitor defendant was said to have called a journalist and defamed the claimant. The words were denied.
Held: Assuming (which was denied) that the . .
CitedKhader v Aziz and Others CA 23-Jun-2010
The claimant brought defamation proceedings after she had found and returned a valuable necklace belonging to the first respondent. The claim had been dismissed as an abuse of process.
Held: The claimant’s appeal failed: ‘there is such a . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Leading Case

Updated: 09 November 2021; Ref: scu.194320