Consumerism: Top Gear in clear
BACKGROUND: Any statement
in disparagement of goods or their quality is defamatory if it reflects
on the owner or manufacturer in his character as a person or a trader.Imputations
that give most cause for complaint are dishonesty, carelessness
or incompetence. The imputation of improper motives is a common
libel risk. In the case of Walker Wingsails Systems v Yachting World
the magazine contrasted the manufacturer's striking claims for a
yacht's performance with those achieved by the journalist who test-sailed
her. Yachting World claimed Fair Comment and denied the article
meant the manufacturer had been dishonest but maintained the firm
had made its claims carelessly and irresponsibly. They lost.
Lesson: The fact on which comment is based must be correct. Yachting
World when making its criticisms, had failed to point out that the
boat when tested by the magazine was far heavier than it had been
when the manufacturer's performance claims were originally made
and, in addition, its bottom had become badly fouled.
Which? always sends the factual results of its tests to the manufacturers
but never the comments they are to make about the products.
by Heather Rogers QC
1. The threshold of seriousness
The Reynolds/Jameel defence
of Kent's guide to libel reform
correct purpose of defamation is to vindicate reputations. This
means that the correct purpose of defamation is not to merely “manage”
reputations. Nor is the correct purpose of defamation to “manage”
the media. The use of defamation in these regards has led to it
disconnecting from what it should be doing. The law and practice
of defamation only makes any sense – only comes close to working
with any efficacy – if cases go to full trial: where the defendant
can put forward its defences and the court (usually a jury) can
decide or not whether the claimant can vindicate his or her reputation."
Part 1 - vindicating reputations
2010's defamation actions were disposed of
getting a fair hearing?
Singh case reignites
companies be able to sue?
and libel tourism
dissemination and the internet
The Reynolds roller-coaster
your facts right
Matthew Lewin describes the day when, as a young journalist,
he took a story to the renowned libel lawyer Peter Carter-Ruck.
“As we went through the piece, line by line and word
by word,” said Lewin, “ the obstinate curtains
impeding my understanding of the nature of allegation, defamation,
supposition and real proof were finally lifted. I don’t
remember his exact words but they were something along the
“It matters not what you know or believe to be true,or
feel certain must be true, or is obviously true or must -
as a matter of sheer logic - be true.
"What matters is what you can actually show to be true.
"Whenever you are unsure imagine yourself in the witness
box in a case potentially involving many thousands of pounds
in damages, under cross examination by a very sharp and very
hostile barrister who barks at you:
‘What proof do you have personally, Mr Lewin, proof
that you can actually show us, to substantiate that allegation?
This is what happens when you don't
They said Ronaldo
was drinking champagne and dancing without his crutches. He wasn't.
pays libel damages to Ronaldo
'Cristiano Ronaldo - apology
incidentally, followed the rejection of an application by the
Telegraph that the case be struck out as an abuse of process.The
Telegraph claimed the case no longer served the purpose of protecting
Ronaldo's reputation because the Mirror had already apologised
publically for the same story and the costs and court resources
involved in a trial would be disproportionate to any legitimate
advantage to the player.The Telegraph’s application could
not be reported until a settlement had been agreed.
Below is a link to the High Court judgement
which includes a consideration of the Telegraph's application
to have the case struck out (from par 23 onwards).
Meanwhile, the BBC apologises “unreservedly” for false
accusations which were later repeated, and exaggerated, by news
organisations all around the world.
apologises over Live Aid money reports
v Times Newspapers in 1999 was one of the most important cases in
libel law history. It acknowledged that there were certain stories
of such public interest that the media, as the watchdogs of the
public, had a duty to report them and the public at large had a
vested interest in reading them.The ruling granted qualified privilege
to those public interest stories provided the publisher had taken
reasonable steps to ensure that what was published was accurate
and fit for publication.
be no protection for accusations made in a casual, cavalier, slipshod
or careless manner.Ten pointers were given to how the test for responsible
journalism would be assessed. But the defence, in the words of one
legal expert, was in danger of withering away when the ten pointers
were applied to stories by judges hostile to the spirit of Reynolds
It took the House of Lords judgement in the Jameel v Wall Street
Journal case to revitalise the defence.
the inherent uncertainty attaching to the Reynolds defence was illustrated
in Flood v Times Newspapers.The Court of Appeal overturned an earlier
High Court decision to grant the Times Reynolds privilege after
they printed allegations of corruption against a police officer.The
three judges sitting in the Court of Appeal said that the newspaper
had not done enough to verify the information they had received
from their sources. The trial judge, Mr Justice Tugendhat, thought
the paper had.
Butterworth, the former readers' editor at The Guardian who is now
practising as a lawyer, commented: "Flood's case shows it is
perfectly possible (likely even) for a careful and thoughtful judge
to come to one decision about what constitutes responsible journalism
and for three appeal judges to arrive at a completely different
conclusion on the same facts. That makes the Reynolds privilege
defence so uncertain as to be of little practical use."
are the House of Lords judgements in both the Reynolds and the Jameel
cases plus a story from The Guardian which underlines the importance
of the Jameel ruling....
of Lords - Reynolds v. Times Newspapers Limited and Others
lords give media shield against libel in landmark ruling | Media
| The Guardian
of Lords - Jameel and others (Respondents) v. Wall Street Journal
Europe Sprl (Appellants)
..... then Ms Butterworth's commentary on the Flood case.
libel ruling shows Reynolds privilege is of little practical use
| Siobhain Butterworth | Law | guardian.co.uk