The Court heard preliminary issues both as to the defamatory meaning of the words used and as to whether publication of those words had caused or was likely to cause serious harm pursuant to s.1 (1) of the 2013 Act.
Held: Following Cooke and Lachaux: ‘Depending on the circumstances of the case, the claimant may be able to satisfy s.1 without calling any evidence, by relying on the inferences of serious harm to reputation properly to be drawn from the level of the defamatory meaning of the words and the nature and extent of their publication . . It is important to bear in mind that s.1 is essentially a threshold requirement, intended by Parliament to weed out those undeserving libel claims otherwise technically viable, but which do not involve actual serious harm to reputation or likely serious harm to reputation in the future. Once that threshold has been passed, no useful purpose is served at this early stage of the proceedings by going on to consider evidence which is really material only to the quantum of damage if liability is proved.’
He later observed that the body of evidence, which included oral evidence, adduced before him in terms of whether the case crossed the threshold of serious harm ‘neither adds nor subtracts very much from the inference one would normally draw from the fact of publication in a case of this kind.’ He pointed out that under s.1(1) pecuniary loss is not a requirement for an individual claimant. He was concerned that the present case demonstrated a ‘further escalation’ in the conduct of such hearings, at huge cost: ‘In the result, the hearing of evidence has added little or nothing to the conclusions that an experienced defamation judge would have drawn simply from reading the email and considering the agreed distribution list.
The reason for this is that s.1 sets a threshold test; and the threshold is simply that there shall have been serious harm to reputation. Once that level is passed, further evidence goes to quantum only. Throughout this trial, my sense has been that that distinction was in danger of becoming blurred or lost sight of.
Assuming this action now goes to a final trial, there is a likelihood that there will be a wasteful duplication of evidence and cross-examination already carried out before me and/or that the ultimate trial judge will be vexed with submissions about what has or has not been determined in the course of this phase of the trial.’
Judge Moloney QC (sitting as a Judge of the High Court)
 EWHC 3769 (QB)
Defamation Act 2013 1
England and Wales
Cited – Lachaux v Independent Print Ltd QBD 30-Jul-2015
The claimant brought defamation claims as to articles making allegations said to imply that the claimant had mistreated his wife. The defendant contended that, while inferences might sometimes suffice, s.1 (1) nevertheless required a claimant to . .
Cited – Cooke and Another v MGN Ltd and Another QBD 13-Aug-2014
The claimants made a television programme about the lives of people on benefits. The defendant published an article critical of many, and included a statement ‘Three more homes in the road where residents claim they have been portrayed as scroungers . .
Approved – Lachaux v Independent Print Ltd (1) CA 12-Sep-2017
Defamation – presumption of damage after 2013 Act
The claimant said that the defendant had published defamatory statements which were part of a campaign of defamation brought by his former wife. The court now considered the requirement for substantiality in the 2013 Act.
Held: The defendant’s . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Updated: 09 January 2022; Ref: scu.558749