William Coulson and Sons v James Coulson and Co: CA 1887

Lord Esher MR said: ‘It could not be denied that the court had jurisdiction to grant an interim injunction before trial. It was, however, a most delicate jurisdiction to exercise, because, though Fox’s Act only applied to indictments and informations for libel, the practice under that Act had been followed in civil actions for libel, that the question of libel or no libel was for the jury. It was for the jury and not for the Court to construe the document and to say whether it was a libel or not. To justify the Court in granting an interim injunction it must come to a decision upon the question of libel or no libel before the jury decided whether it was a libel or not. Therefore, the jurisdiction was of a delicate nature. It ought only to be exercised in the clearest cases, where any jury would say that the matter complained of was libellous, and where, if the jury did not so find, the Court would set aside the verdict as unreasonable. The Court must also be satisfied that in all probability the alleged libel was untrue, and if written on a privileged occasion that there was malice on the part of the defendant. It followed from those three rules that the Court could only on the rarest occasions exercise the jurisdiction.’
Lindley LJ ‘agreed with the rules laid down by the Master of the Rolls, and he was not prepared to say that the jury might not find that this was no libel, or that the alleged libel was true. The injunction, therefore, ought not to have been granted. Both the Judge at Chambers and the Divisional Court had suggested a form of circular; but it was no part of a Judge’s duty to do so, except for the purposes of putting an end to litigation, and the Court ought not to settle a draft form of what might turn out to be a libel.’


Lord Esher MR, Lindley LJ


(1887) 3 TLR 846


England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedBonnard v Perryman QBD 1891
The libel in issue was a very damaging one. Unless it could be justified at the trial it was one in which a jury would give the plaintiff ‘very serious damages’. The court was asked to grant an interlocutory injunction to restrain publication.
ApprovedBonnard v Perryman CA 2-Jan-1891
Although the courts possessed a jurisdiction, ‘in all but exceptional cases’, they should not issue an interlocutory injunction to restrain the publication of a libel which the defence sought to justify except where it was clear that that defence . .
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 . .
CitedVaughan v London Borough of Lewisham and Others QBD 11-Apr-2013
The claimant sought an order to restrain anticipated defamatory comments and evidence to be given to an employment tribunal.
Held: It could not be said as the claimant asserted that dfeences were bound to fail, and no determination should be . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Updated: 15 July 2022; Ref: scu.219251