Steel and Morris v United Kingdom: ECHR 15 Feb 2005

The applicants had been sued in defamation by McDonalds. They had no resources, and English law precluded legal aid for such cases. The trial was the longest in English legal history. They complained that the non-availablility of legal aid infringed their right to a fair trial.
Held: There had been an unacceptable inequality of arms. The Convention was intended to guarantee effective rights. The question was to be determined in the context of each trial, including am assessment of the importance of the case to the party. The denial of legal aid in this case had deprived the applicants of the opportunity to present their case effectively, and resulted in an unacceptable inequality of arms. The fact that the applicants were not journalists did not diminish their rights to freedom of expression. However the allegations they had made were serious, and they were not to be excused by prior publication elsewhere. The fact that the claimant was a large multi-national did not mean it should be deprived of its freedom to defend its reputation, but if a state gave such a company that right it had a duty to safeguard the freedom of expression and open debate by ensuring equality of arms. The failure in this case led to a procedural unfairness and an infringement of article 10. There was also a duty to ensure that the damages awarded were proportionate to the injury to reputation suffered.
ECHR Judgment (Merits and Just Satisfaction) – Violation of Art. 6-1; Violation of Art. 10; Pecuniary damage – claim rejected; Non-pecuniary damage – financial award; Costs and expenses partial award – Convention proceedings.

Times 16-Feb-2005, 68416/01, [2005] ECHR 103, (2005) 41 EHRR 403, [2011] ECHR 2272
Worldlii, Bailii, Bailii
European Convention on Human Rights 6.1 10
Human Rights
CitedDe Haes and Gijsels v Belgium ECHR 24-Feb-1997
The court emphasised that the press plays an essential role in a democratic society. The court trenchantly observed ‘It is incumbent on the press to impart information and ideas of public interest. Not only does the press have the task of imparting . .
CitedAirey v Ireland ECHR 9-Oct-1979
Family law proceedings such as judicial separation do give rise to civil rights. In complex cases article 6 might require some provision for legal assistance, the precise form being a matter for the member state. The Court reiterated the importance . .
CitedThorgeir Thorgeirson v Iceland ECHR 25-Jun-1992
Two newspaper articles reported widespread rumours of brutality by the Reykjavik police. These rumours had some substantiation in fact, a policeman had been convicted recently. The purpose of the articles was to promote an investigation by an . .
CitedFeldek v Slovakia ECHR 10-Mar-2011
Hudoc Judgment (Merits and just satisfaction) Violation of Art. 10; No separate issue under Art. 9; No violation of Art. 14; Pecuniary damage – claim rejected; Non-pecuniary damage – financial award; Costs and . .
CitedLingens v Austria ECHR 8-Jul-1986
Freedom of expression, as secured in paragraph 1 of Article 10, constitutes one of the essential foundations of a democratic society and one of the basic conditions for its progress and for each individual’s self-fulfilment. Subject to paragraph 2, . .
CitedTolstoy Miloslavsky v United Kingdom ECHR 19-Jul-1995
The applicant had been required to pay andpound;124,900 as security for the respondent’s costs as a condition of his appeal against an award of damages in a defamation case.
Held: It followed from established case law that article 6(1) did not . .
See AlsoSteel and Others v The United Kingdom ECHR 23-Sep-1998
The several applicants had been arrested in different circumstances and each charged with breach of the peace contrary to common law. Under the Magistrates’ Court Act 1980, the court can bind over a Defendant to keep the peace, if the Defendant . .

Cited by:
CitedCampbell v MGN Ltd (No 2) HL 20-Oct-2005
The appellant sought to challenge the level of costs sought by the claimant after she had succeeded in her appeal to the House. Though a relatively small sum had been awarded, the costs and success fee were very substantial. The newspaper claimed . .
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 . .
CitedFinancial Times Ltd and Others v The United Kingdom ECHR 15-Dec-2009
The claimants said that an order that they deliver up documents leaked to them regarding a possible takeover violated their right to freedom of expression. They complained that such disclosure might lead to the identification of journalistic . .
CitedMGN Limited v United Kingdom ECHR 18-Jan-2011
The applicant publisher said that the finding against it of breach of confidence and the system of success fees infringed it Article 10 rights to freedom of speech. It had published an article about a model’s attendance at Narcotics anonymous . .
CitedRobins v Kordowski and Another QBD 22-Jul-2011
The claimant solicitor said he had been defamed on the first defendant’s website (‘Solicitors from Hell’) by the second defendant. The first defendant now applied to set aside judgment entered by default. The claimant additionally sought summary . .
CitedTurley v Unite The Union and Another QBD 19-Dec-2019
Defamation of Labour MP by Unite and Blogger
The claimant now a former MP had alleged that a posting on a website supported by the first defendant was false and defamatory. The posting suggested that the claimant had acted dishonestly in applying online for a category of membership of the . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Human Rights, Legal Aid, Defamation

Leading Case

Updated: 01 November 2021; Ref: scu.222839