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 that he had drafted the apology in such a way as to repeat the libel complained of.
Held: The general principle on which common law qualified privilege was founded was the public interest frequently expressed as ‘the common convenience and welfare of society’ or ‘the general interest of society’. The parties had been unable to identify any previous occasion on which an apology had been found itself to be defamatory. Throughout the history of the development of the doctrine of priviege, the protection has always been described as arising where ‘the occasion of the publication affords a defence in the absence of express malice’. The word ‘occasion’ connotes the origin and circumstances of the publication of each individual defendant or third party, and in carrying through this exercise the position of each individual person involved in the publication requires separate consideration. Having regard to the origin and circumstances of the publication of this apology, the necessary conditions are satisfied by which protection should be obtained weer not satisfied.
Hirst LJ, Henry LJ, Sir Ralph Gibson
Times 22-Sep-1995, [1997] QB 650, [1995] EWCA Civ 45, [1996] 2 WLR 427, [1996] EMLR 1, [1996] 1 All ER 152
England and Wales
CitedToogood v Spyring 1834
Qualified Privilege of Bona Fide Words Under Duty
The defence of qualified privilege arises where the statement in question was bona fide and without malicious intent to injure: ‘In general, an action lies for the malicious publication of statements which are false in fact, and injurious to the . .
CitedAdam v Ward HL 1917
The plaintiff, Major Adam MP, falsely attacked General Scobell in a speech in the House of Commons, thus bringing his charge into the national arena. The Army Council investigated the charge, rejected it and directed their secretary, Sir E Ward, the . .
CitedHorrocks v Lowe HL 1974
The plaintiff complained of an alleged slander spoken at a meeting of the Town Council.
Held: An allegation of malice is a very serious allegation and is generally tantamount to dishonesty. The House considered the circumstances under which a . .
CitedBaker v Carrick 1894
Letters written by a solicitor in the performance of his or her duties to a client of the firm to a person with an appropriate interest in receiving it attract qualified privilege. Publication by a solicitor is protected by qualified privilege if . .
CitedMary Griffiths v Lewis 27-Apr-1846
Where a declaration in slander sets out words alleged to have been uttered, some in one discourse, and the remainder in a second discourse, and there are in form but two counts, each containing only the words alleged to have been uttered in one . .
CitedOversea-Chinese Banking Corporation Limited v Wright 1994
The Business Times in Singapore had published an apology in favour of a third party in respect of defamatory statements made by Mr Wright whose letter was previously published by the newspaper. The letter was found to be privileged when the letter . .
CitedExpress Newspapers v News (UK) plc 1990
If summary judgment is given to one party on his claim, it must also be given on a counterclaim made on the same basis by the defendant. The principle that a party to litigation cannot ‘approbate and reprobate’ (or ‘blow hot and cold’) can curtail a . .
CitedLondon Association for Protection of Trade v Greenlands Ltd HL 1916
There had been publication in confidence to a single potential customer.
Held: When testing whether an occasion was one for qualified privilege, the court must look to all the circumstances.
Lord Buckmaster LC said: ‘Again, it is, I . .
CitedBoxsius v Goblet Freres 1894
An ordinary business representative or adjunct of the associated agents, or any of them, cannot escape iability in defamation by regarding the communication with him as usual in the course of business. . .

Cited by:
CitedLoutchansky v Times Newspapers Limited (No 2) CA 12-Mar-2001
The defendants appealed against a refusal to allow them to amend their pleadings. They wished to include allegations as to matters which were unknown to the journalist at the time of publication.
Held: It is necessary for the defendants to . .
CitedKhader v Aziz and Another QBD 31-Jul-2009
The defendant sought to strike out a claim in defamation. Acting on behalf of his client the solicitor defendant was said to have called a journalist and defamed the claimant. The words were denied.
Held: Assuming (which was denied) that the . .
CitedKhader v Aziz and Others CA 23-Jun-2010
The claimant brought defamation proceedings after she had found and returned a valuable necklace belonging to the first respondent. The claim had been dismissed as an abuse of process.
Held: The claimant’s appeal failed: ‘there is such a . .
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 . .

These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 09 June 2021; Ref: scu.90335