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 union. The defendants pursued defences of justification and of public interest, but withdrew the allegation of dishonesty early in the trial.
Held: The Union had not clearly informed applicants of the conditions of membership, and could not establish that the claimant knew of them. The allegations were indeed potentially damaging. Though there may have been a public interest in publication of such an allegation if true, but the defence was unavailable to the defendants because the defendants had not given adequate opportunity for the claimant to understand what was to be written before its publication, and had not adequately undertaken checks of the assertions made, which had they been completed would have demonstrated the falsity of some of their claims, because the membership application had not asked as to her employment status as asserted.
When awarding damages of 75,000 pounds, the court noted: ‘The Defendants’ conduct during the trial has seriously aggravated the harm to the Claimant’s reputation and her distress. Mr Hudson QC’s claim, in opening, that the evidence would show that the Claimant was ‘not fit to be an MP’ was a memorable phrase that was picked up in most media reports of the trial. Many reports have been published detailing the Defendants’ claims that the Claimant was dishonest. In the event, I have dismissed the Defendants’ defence of truth and their claim that the Claimant had conducted her claim dishonestly. The platform on which it was claimed that the Claimant was dishonest and not fit to be an MP has collapsed. Not only does this conduct aggravate the damages (for the reasons explained by Lord Judge LCJ, in Cairns -v- Modi) it makes the vindicatory function of damages particularly important in this case. Although this judgment may serve to vindicate the Claimant, its effectiveness in doing so will depend on the number of people who read it, or read reports of it. In most cases, effective and lasting vindication is most likely to come, as Lord Judge recognised, from the size of the award.’
 EWHC 3547 (QB)
Bailii, Judiciary, Judiciary Summary
Data Protection Act 1998, Defamation Act 2013 1(1) 4
England and Wales
Cited – Speight v Gosnay CA 1891
Lopes LJ identified four ways in which a person could be liable for the republication of a defamatory statement:
i) where a defendant has authorised the republication of the statement;
ii) where a defendant intended that the statement . .
Cited – Howland -v- Blake Manufacturing Co 1892
‘the mere furnishing by one person of some of the materials used by another in the preparation of a libellous article does not constitute a publication of it by the former if, when printed, the article as a whole is something very different from the . .
Cited – Watts v Times Newspapers Ltd, Neil, Palmer and Schilling and Lom CA 28-Jul-1995
The plaintiff author had claimed damages for defamation, saying that he had been accused of plagiarism. An apology had been given in the form requested – no qualified privilege. The plaintiff brought an associated case against his lawyer, saying . .
Cited – Samsun Pty Ltd and Others v Andrew Wily and Another 7-Apr-2000
(Supreme Court of New South Wales) Kirby J said: ‘Having made the press release, the defendants may be taken as having intended its dissemination to the news media. However, if, as they contend, the press release was not defamatory of the . .
Cited – B v N and Another QBD 31-Jul-2002
There was as allegation of defamation by one doctor against another.
Held: Eady J said: ‘To participate in a publication in such a way as to be liable in accordance with the law of defamation is not, I should emphasise, to be equated with . .
Cited – Webster v British Gas Services Ltd QBD 23-May-2003
A person who supplies another with information intending or knowing that it is liable to be republished has been held to be prima facie liable for the publication of what s/he has provided . .
Cited – Dar Al Arkan Real Estate Development Com v Al Refai and Others ComC 12-Jun-2013
Andrew Smith J, dismissed a defendant’s application for summary judgment, saying that that it was not fatal to the claim that the claimant could not plead or prove that the defendant caused or authorised publication of ‘the specific defamatory words . .
Cited – Monir v Wood QBD 19-Dec-2018
The court considered an online allegation of involvement in child sex abuse which was described as ‘life changing’ and having transformed the life of the claimant and his family and left him a recluse. Notwithstanding the ‘fairly limited . .
Cited – Bukovsky v Crown Prosecution Service QBD 28-Jul-2016
An individual who faced criminal charges sued the CPS for libel, misfeasance in public office, and breach of the Human Rights Act, in respect of a public announcement that those charges were to be brought. The court was asked now to decide whether . .
Cited – Koutsogiannis v The Random House Group Ltd QBD 18-Jan-2019
Settling Meaning in Defamation Cases
Nicklin J set out the approach to meaning in defamation actions: The Court’s task is to determine the single natural and ordinary meaning of the words complained of, which is the meaning that the hypothetical reasonable reader would understand the . .
Cited – Stocker v Stocker SC 3-Apr-2019
The parties had been married and divorced. Mrs S told M S’s new partner on Facebook that he had tried to strangle her and made other allegations. Mrs S now appealed from a finding that she had defamed him. Lord Kerr restated the approach to meaning . .
Cited – Monks v Warwick District Council QBD 7-May-2009
The claimant sought damages in defamation in respect of a statement made by one of its planning officers.
Held: A source or contributor cannot be sued for a defamatory meaning which only arises from part of the media publication to which he . .
Cited – Economou v De Freitas QBD 27-Jul-2016
Failed action for defamation on rape allegations
The claimant had been accused by the defendant’s daughter of rape. He was never charged but sought to prosecute her alleging intent to pervert the course of justice. She later killed herself. The defendant sought to have the inquest extended to . .
Cited – Lachaux v Independent Print Ltd and Another SC 12-Jun-2019
Need to Show Damage Increased by 2013 Act
The claimant alleged defamation by three publishers. The articles were held to have defamatory meaning, but the papers argued that the defamations did not reach the threshold of seriousness in section 1(1) of the 2013 Act.
Held: Section 1 of . .
Cited – Slipper v British Broadcasting Corporation CA 1990
The plaintiff, a retired policeman was featured in a film about the Great Train Robbery. He sought to say that paper reviews of the film, and trailers worked to spread the libel, and should count in the assessment of damages against the defendant, . .
Cited – King v Telegraph Group Ltd CA 18-May-2004
The defendant appealed against interim costs orders made in the claim against it for defamation.
Held: The general power of cost capping measures available to courts were available also in defamation proceedings. The claimant was being . .
Cited – Reynolds v Times Newspapers Ltd and others HL 28-Oct-1999
Fair Coment on Political Activities
The defendant newspaper had published articles wrongly accusing the claimant, the former Prime Minister of Ireland of duplicity. The paper now appealed, saying that it should have had available to it a defence of qualified privilege because of the . .
Cited – King v Grundon QBD 11-May-2012
Assessment of harm to reputation has never been just a ‘numbers game’: ‘one well-directed arrow [may] hit the bull’s eye of reputation’ and cause more damage than indiscriminate firing . .
Cited – Cairns v Modi CA 31-Oct-2012
Three appeals against the levels of damages awards were heard together, and the court considered the principles to be applied.
Held: In assessing compensation following a libel, the essential question was how much loss and damage did the . .
Cited – Miller v Associated Newspapers Ltd CA 24-Jan-2014
Appeal against an order giving judgment for the respondent, Mr Miller, against the appellant, Associated Newspapers Ltd, the publishers of the Daily Mail, in an action for libel.
Moore-Bick LJ (giving the judgment of the Court) summarised the . .
Cited – Ames and Another v The Spamhaus Project Ltd and Another QBD 27-Jan-2015
Warby J said: ‘ . . but as practitioners in this field are well aware, it is generally impractical for a claimant to seek out witnesses to say that they read the words complained of and thought the worse of the claimant’ . .
Cited – Sobrinho v Impresa Publishing Sa QBD 22-Jan-2016
Dingemans J considered the effect of s 1 of the 201 Act: ‘first, a claimant must now establish, in addition to the requirements of the common law relating to defamatory statements, that the statement complained of has in fact caused or is likely to . .
Cited – Dhir v Saddler QBD 6-Dec-2017
Slander damages reduced for conduct
Claim in slander. The defendant was said, at a church meeting to have accused the client of threatening to slit her throat. The defendant argued that the audience of 80 was not large enough.
Held: ‘the authorities demonstrate that it is the . .
Cited – Doyle v Smith QBD 2-Nov-2018
A claimant may struggle to identify, or to produce evidence from, all those to whom an article was published and in whose eyes the claimant’s reputation was damaged . .
Cited – Bokova v Associated Newspapers Ltd QBD 31-Jul-2018
Nicklin J explained how circumstantial evidence might be admissible to prove the truth of a Chase level 2 meaning: ‘The ‘conduct rule’ and ‘circumstantial evidence’ have been further elucidated.
(i) While it is an essential requisite of a . .
Cited – Bladet Tromso and Stensaas v Norway ECHR 20-May-1999
A newspaper and its editor complained that their right to freedom of expression had been breached when they were found liable in defamation proceedings for statements in articles which they had published about the methods used by seal hunters in the . .
Cited – Turcu v News Group Newspapers Ltd QBD 4-May-2005
Chilling effect of defamation costs structures
Eady J said: ‘The claimant in these proceedings is seeking damages against News Group Newspapers Ltd, as publishers of The News of the World, in respect of articles appearing in the editions of that newspaper dated 3 November 2002 . . He issued his . .
Cited – Zahoor and Others v Masood and Others CA 3-Jul-2009
It was argued that the judge should have struck the claim out as an abuse of process on the ground that some at least of the claims were based on forged documents and false written and oral evidence.
Held: Arrow Nominees was authority for the . .
Cited – Flood v Times Newspapers Ltd SC 21-Mar-2012
The defendant had published an article which was defamatory of the claimant police officer, saying that he was under investigation for alleged corruption. The inquiry later cleared him. The court was now asked whether the paper had Reynolds type . .
Cited – Fairclough Homes Ltd v Summers SC 27-Jun-2012
The respondent had made a personal injury claim, but had then been discovered to have wildly and dishonestly exaggerated the damages claim. The defendant argued that the court should hand down some condign form of punishment, and appealed against . .
Cited – Joseph and Others v Spiller and Another QBD 26-Oct-2012
Cited – Alpha Rocks Solicitors v Alade CA 9-Jul-2015
The court was asked: ‘when it is appropriate to strike out a claim on the grounds that the claimant has abused the process of the court. It arises in the context of a claim by a firm of solicitors to recover their costs and expenses from their . .
Cited – Serafin v Malkiewicz and Others CA 17-May-2019
Appeal from rejection of claim in defamation . .
Cited – Joseph and Others v Spiller and Another QBD 20-Nov-2012
Costs after finding in favour of claimants but with merely nominal damages. Tugendhat J explained that his decision to award only nominal damages was because he had concluded ‘it would be an affront to justice if [the claimant] were to be awarded . .
Cited – Pamplin v Express Newspapers Ltd (2) CA 1988
In considering what evidence can be used in mitigation of damages in defamation, it is necessary to draw a distinction between evidence which is put forward to show that the plaintiff is a man of bad reputation and evidence which is already before . .
Cited – John v MGN Ltd CA 12-Dec-1995
Defamation – Large Damages Awards
MGN appealed as to the level of damages awarded against it namely pounds 350,000 damages, comprising pounds 75,000 compensatory damages and pounds 275,000 exemplary damages. The newspaper contended that as a matter of principle there is no scope in . .
Cited – Flymenow Ltd v Quick Air Jet Charter Gmbh QBD 15-Dec-2016
Warby J awarded a claimant company general damages of pounds 10 for a libel suggesting that it was insolvent. . .
Cited – Scott v Sampson QBD 1882
The court explained why evidence of particular acts of misconduct on the part of the Plaintiff tending to show his character and disposition should be excluded, saying ‘Both principle and authority seems equally against its admission. It would give . .
Cited – Fentiman v Marsh QBD 31-Jul-2019
The court awarded pounds 45,000 general damages and an additional pounds 10,000 in aggravated damages in respect of three posts containing allegations of computer hacking or strong grounds to suspect such conduct in the third post, published to . .
Cited – Dingle v Associated Newspapers HL 1964
The plaintiff complained of an article written in the Daily Mail which included the reporting of a report of a Parliamentary select committee. The reporting of the select committee’s report was privileged under the Parliamentary Papers Act 1840. At . .
Cited – Burgon MP v News Group Newspapers Ltd and Another QBD 6-Feb-2019
Pounds 30,000 was awarded to an MP for an online article, published on a national newspaper website by a very prominent political correspondent, the Sun’s political editor, that meant that he ‘joined a band which as he knew took great pleasure in . .
Cited – Cassell and Co Ltd v Broome and Another HL 23-Feb-1972
Exemplary Damages Award in Defamation
The plaintiff had been awarded damages for defamation. The defendants pleaded justification. Before the trial the plaintiff gave notice that he wanted additional, exemplary, damages. The trial judge said that such a claim had to have been pleaded. . .
Cited – Rantzen v Mirror Group Newspapers (1986) Ltd and Others CA 1-Apr-1993
Four articles in the People all covered the same story about Esther Rantzen’s organisation, Childline, suggesting that the plaintiff had protected a teacher who had revealed to Childline abuses of children occurring at a school where he taught, by . .
Cited – Burstein v Times Newspapers Ltd CA 20-Dec-2000
Where a defendant in a defamation action sought to reduce the damages payable by arguing that the claimant had a reduced or damaged reputation, he could include evidence about particular facts only where these were directly connected to the . .
Cited – Suttle v Walker QBD 18-Jan-2019
A joint award of pounds 40,000 was made for defamation and harassment in a case where the harassment alone justified an award at the upper end of the Vento scale , being a campaign in which the claimant was ‘clearly and deliberately targeted’ to . .
Cited – 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 . .
Cited – Trumm v Norman QBD 29-Jan-2008
Cited – Barron and Others v Collins QBD 6-Feb-2017
Three MPs had sued in defamation after the defendant had wrongly accused them of knowing of the sexual exploitation of children in Rotherham without doing anything about it. Liability now being established, the court set out to assess the damages . .
Cited – Purnell v Business Magazine Ltd CA 18-Apr-2007
The defendant appealed an award of damages for defamation. . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Updated: 01 November 2021; Ref: scu.645994