Wason v Walter; ex parte Wason: QBD 1868

Defamation proceedings were begun in respect of newspaper reports of debates in Parliament.
Held: By analogy with reports of judicial proceedings, that fair and accurate reports of parliamentary proceedings were privileged. It was of paramount public and national importance that the proceedings of either House of Parliament should be communicated to the public.
Cockburn CJ said: ‘It seems to us impossible to doubt that it is of paramount public and national importance that the proceedings of the Houses of Parliament shall be communicated to the public, who have the deepest interest in knowing what passes within their walls, seeing that on what is there said and done, the welfare of the community depends . . Can any man bring himself to doubt that the publicity given in modern times to what passes in Parliament is essential to the maintenance of the relations existing between the government, the legislature, and the country at large? ‘ and ‘It is clear that statements made by members of either House of Parliament in their places in the House, though they might be untrue to their knowledge, could not be made the foundation of civil or criminal proceedings, however injurious they might be to the interest of a third person. And a conspiracy to make such statements would not make the persons guilty of it amenable to the criminal law.’
Lush J said: ‘I am clearly of opinion that we ought not to allow it to be doubted for a moment that the motives or intentions of members of either House cannot be inquired into by criminal proceedings with respect to anything they may do or say in the House.’


Cockburn CJ, Blackburn, Lush JJ


(1868) LR 4 QB 73, [1861-73] All ER 105


England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedReynolds 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 . .
CitedCuristan v Times Newspapers Ltd CA 30-Apr-2008
The court considered the availability of qualified privilege for reporting of statements made in parliament and the actionable meaning of the article, which comprised in part those statements and in part other factual material representing the . .
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.

Defamation, Constitutional

Updated: 12 April 2022; Ref: scu.194511