Stockdale v Hansard: 1839

Bailii It is no defence in law to an action for publishing a libel, that defamatory matter is part of a order of the House of Commons, laid before the House, and thereupon became part of the proceedings of the House and which was afterwards, by orders of the House, printed and published by defendant; and that the House of Commons heretofore resolved, declared, and adjudged ‘that the power of publishing such of its reports, votes, and proceedings as it shall deem necessary or conducive to the public interests is an essential incident to the constitutional functions of parliament, more especially to the Commons’ House of Parliament as the representative portion of it.’
On demurrer to a plea suggesting such a defence, a court of law is competent to determine whether or not the House of Commons has such privilege as will support the plea.
Lord Denman CJ said: ‘Our respect and gratitude to the Convention Parliament ought not to blind us to the fact that this sentence of imprisonment was as unjust and tyrannical as any of those of arbitrary power for which they deprived King James of his Crown.’ and ‘Where the subject matter falls within their jurisdiction, no doubt we cannot question their judgment; but we are now enquiring whether the subject matter does fall within the jurisdiction of the House of Commons. It is contended that they can bring it within their jurisdiction by declaring it so. To this claim, as arising from their privileges, I have already stated my answer: it is perfectly clear that none of these Courts could give themselves jurisdiction by adjudging that they enjoy it.’

Lord Denman CJ
(1839) 9 Ad and El 1, [1839] EWHC QB J21, 112 ER 1112, (1839) 9 Ad and Ell 96
England and Wales
appeal fromStockdale v Hansard And Others 7-Feb-1837
The order of the House of Commons for the publication and sale by certain booksellers of Reports laid before the House, does not exempt the booksellers from answering in an action of libel any individual injured by defamatory matters in such Reports . .
appeal fromStockdale v Hansard And Others 7-Feb-1837
The House of Commons, in the years 1836 and 1836, made resolutions that parliamentary papers and reports, printed for the use of the house, should be publicly sold by their printer ; and afterwards a report from the Inspectors of Prisons was ordered . .
CitedEntick v Carrington KBD 1765
The Property of Every Man is Sacred
The King’s Messengers entered the plaintiff’s house and seized his papers under a warrant issued by the Secretary of State, a government minister.
Held: The common law does not recognise interests of state as a justification for allowing what . .

Cited by:
CitedJennings v Buchanan PC 14-Jul-2004
(New Zealand) (Attorney General of New Zealand intervening) The defendant MP had made a statement in Parliament which attracted parliamentary privilege. In a subsequent newspaper interview, he said ‘he did not resile from his claim’. He defended the . .
CitedPrebble v Television New Zealand Ltd PC 27-Jun-1994
(New Zealand) The plaintiff, an MP, pursued a defamation case. The defendant wished to argue for the truth of what was said, and sought to base his argument on things said in Parliament. The plaintiff responded that this would be a breach of . .
CitedChaytor and Others, Regina v CACD 30-Jul-2010
The defendants had been members of the Houses of Commons and of Lords. They faced charges of dishonesty in respect of their expenses claims. They now appealed a finding that they were not subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of Parliament under . .
CitedChaytor and Others, Regina v SC 1-Dec-2010
The defendants faced trial on charges of false accounting in connection in different ways with their expenses claims whilst serving as members of the House of Commons. They appealed against rejection of their assertion that the court had no . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Constitutional, Defamation

Leading Case

Updated: 09 November 2021; Ref: scu.199236