Westcott v Westcott: QBD 30 Oct 2007

The claimant said that his daughter in law had defamed him. She answered that the publication was protected by absolute privilege. She had complained to the police that he had hit her and her infant son.
Held: ‘the process of taking a witness statement is an essential early step in an embryonic investigation, and it is the product of a police decision to take that step.’ and the court could see no reason to distinguish those interviewed by the police investigating a complaint from those whose statements give rise to the investigation. The Defendant’s oral complaint to the police was protected by absolute privilege and immunity from suit.


Richard Parkes QC


[2007] EWHC 2501 (QB)




European Convention on Human Rights 8


England and Wales


CitedMartin v Watson HL 13-Jul-1995
The plaintiff had been falsely reported to the police by the defendant, a neighbour, for indecent exposure whilst standing on a ladder in his garden. He had been arrested and charged, but at a hearing before the Magistrates’ Court, the Crown . .
CitedMunster v Lamb CA 1883
Judges and witness, including police officers are given immunity from suit in defamation in court proceedings.
Fry LJ said: ‘Why should a witness be able to avail himself of his position in the box and to make without fear of civil consequences . .
CitedStanton and Another v Callaghan and Others CA 8-Jul-1998
The defendant, a structural engineer, was retained by the plaintiffs in a claim against insurers for the costs of remedying subsidence of the plaintiffs’ house. He advised total underpinning for pounds 77,000, but later while preparing a joint . .
CitedEvans v London Hospital Medical College and Others 1981
The defendants employed by the first defendant carried out a post mortem on the plaintiff’s infant son. They found concentrations of morphine and told the police. The plaintiff was charged with the murder of her son. After further investigation no . .
CitedWatson v M’Ewan HL 1905
A claim was brought against a medical witness in respect of statements made in preparation of a witness statement and similar statements subsequently made in court. The appellant was a doctor of medicine who had been retained by the respondent in . .
CitedBuckley v Dalziel QBD 3-May-2007
There was a heated dispute between neighbours, culminating in some generous or perhaps over-generous pruning by the claimant of the defendant’s trees and shrubs on the boundaries. The defendants reported the matter to the police. Both Mr and Mrs . .
CitedTaylor and Others v Director of The Serious Fraud Office and Others HL 29-Oct-1998
The defendant had requested the Isle of Man authorities to investigate the part if any taken by the plaintiff in a major fraud. No charges were brought against the plaintiff, but the documents showing suspicion came to be disclosed in the later . .
CitedMarrinan v Vibart QBD 1963
The plaintiff sought to sue police officers who had prepared a report for the Director of Public Prosecutions and appeared as witnesses against him at his criminal trial.
Held: The claim failed. Salmon J considered the principle of the . .
CitedMarrinan v Vibart CA 2-Jan-1963
Decision upheld (dicta approved) . .
CitedGreene v Associated Newspapers Ltd CA 5-Nov-2004
The claimant appealed against refusal of an order restraining publication by the respondent of an article about her. She said that it was based upon an email falsely attributed to her.
Held: ‘in an action for defamation a court will not impose . .

Cited by:

Appeal fromWestcott v Westcott CA 15-Jul-2008
The defendant was the claimant’s daughter in law. In the course of a bitter divorce she made allegations to the police which were investigated but did not lead to a prosecution. The claimant appealed dismissal of his claim for defamation on the . .
ApprovedAlexandrovic v Khan QBD 2008
The public policy priority is that those who have complaints should be free to make them to the police without fear that they will be challenged in later proceedings even if those who are malicious obtain the benefit of such protection, since the . .
CitedVaidya v General Medical Council QBD 2010
Sir Charles Gray said: ‘It appears to me to be clear beyond argument that this letter is protected by absolute privilege since it was written to an official of an investigatory body (the GMC) in order to complain about the conduct of Dr Vaidya.’ . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Defamation, Human Rights

Updated: 12 July 2022; Ref: scu.261574