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  • Created on: 12-01-17 22:07

Libel

Monson v Tussauds

Madame Tussauds a wax work of John Monson holding a gun was displayed in the museum, close to the “Chamber of Horrors”. Monson had been subject to a murder trial however was set free with the verdict of “not proven”. The case established the principle of “libel by innuendo” and confirmed that a wax statue was capable of being libel by suggesting Monson to be guilty of murder. Wax figures are also considered a statement in a permanent form.

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What claimant must prove

1)    That the statement was defamatory

2)    That it referred to the claimant and

3)    That it was published i.e. communicated to a third party

4)    That publication caused or is likely to cause serious harm to the reputation of c

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What Defendant must prove

The onus will then shift to D to prove any of the following defences

Truth

Honest opinion

Publication on a matter of public interest

Website operators defence

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statement is defamatory

Exposes C to hatred, ridicule or contempt

Causes C to be shunned or avoided

Disparage C in business, trade, office or profession

Lowers C in the estimation of rights thinking members of society generally

Whole context must be viewed

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Exposes C to hatred, ridicule or contempt

Parmiter v Coupland

A publication may be a libel on a private person, which would not be any libel on a person in a public capacity; but any imputation of unjust or corrupt motives is equally libellous in either case. It was for the judge to give a legal definition of the offence which he defined as being: ‘A publication, without justification or lawful excuse, which is calculated to injure the reputation of another, by exposing him to hatred, contempt, or ridicule.’

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Causes C to be shunned or avoided

Berkoff v Birchill

plaintiff actor said that an article by the defendant labelling him ugly was defamatory.

Held: It is for the jury to decide in what context the words complained of were used and whether they were defamatory in those circumstances. An allegation that an actor was hideously ugly was capable of being defamatory of him on the grounds it exposed him to ridicule.

“I must say I am doubtful whether to call a person "hideously ugly" exposes that person to ridicule, but I have come to the conclusion that it is likely to lead ordinary reasonable people to shun the plaintiff, despite the fact that being hideously ugly is no reflection on a person's character or good reputation. For that reason, albeit with hesitation, I hold that to call a person "hideously ugly" is defamatory”

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Disparage C in business, trade, office or professi

Hulton & co v Jones

An article was written by a correspondent of an English newspaper reporting that at a large and well attended motor vehicle show in France there on the terraces was ‘Artemus Jones with a woman not his wife who must be you know – the other thing.’ The writer did not know an Artemus Jones and had made the name up for the purposes of the story. In fact, there really was an Artemus Jones a barrister in practice in North Wales.

Held: The plaintiff was entitled to maintain the action. The newspaper and its publishers were liable: ‘A person charged with libel cannot defend himself by showing that he intended in his own breast not to defame, or that he intended not to defame the plaintiff, if in fact he did both.’

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Lowers C in the estimation of rights thinking memb

Byrne v Deane

Police raided a golf clubhouse and removed illegal "fruit machines" which were on the premises. The following verse was posted on the wall of the clubhouse which the plaintiff claimed was directed towards him: "But he who gave the game away, may he byrne in hell and rue the day." It was held that there was no defamation. A statement which

implied that an individual assisted the police in the prevention of crime would not lower that an individual in the eyes of right thinking members of society, even if it did affect his popularity and spoil the entertainment of the club members

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Whole context must be viewed

Charleston v Newsgroup

the News of the World carried a story abouta computer game which superimposed the faces of well-known actors onto other people’s bodies, so that they appeared to be engaged in sexual acts. The piece was illustrated with a picture showing a man and woman having sex, with the faces of the actors Ian Smith and Ann Charleston, who played Harold and Madge in the TV soap ‘Neighbours’, superimposed on their bodies. The headline was ‘Strewth! What’s Harold up to with our Madge?’ Although the article made it clear that the people in the picture were not Smith and Charleston, they sued on the basis that anyone who just read the headline and looked at the pictures might think that they had been

involved in ***********. The House of Lords said that using defamatory headlines could be ‘playing with fire’, but the defamatory effect had to be judged against the article as a whole. In this case, although the headline looked defamatory, a reader only had to glance through the first paragraph to see that in fact the paper was not making any defamatory allegation. The situation might, they said, be different if, for example, the headline was potentially defamatory and the words which explained it and removed the defamatory meaning were not found until well into the article, so that casual readers might not see them.

Cases like Charleston are often referred to in terms of ‘bane and antidote’, the bane being the potentially defamatory allegation, and the antidote those words which show the reader that it is untrue, or take away the defamatory meaning. A jury will be told to take the two together and decide whether the antidote does actually take away the bane.

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Innuendo

Lewis v Daily telegraph (false/popular innuendo)

Telegraph reported that a company was being investigated by the Fraud Squad, which was true. However, Mr Lewis, who ran the company, said the story implied that he and the company had committed fraud, or at least were suspected of it. The House of Lords said that the story could not be taken to mean that Mr Lewis and his company were guilty of fraud, but it could mean that they were under suspicion, and a jury should be allowed to consider the case on the basis of this meaning. In the event, the case was settled out of court.

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Reference to the claimant

This can include implied reference to C

Morgan v Oldham Press

the case arose from a story about a dog-doping gang.

The journalist writing the story was being helped by a kennel girl, and during the invest- gation, she stayed with the claimant for a few days. The dog doping story was then published, with a photo of the kennel girl, and the following day, the Sun published another story, saying that she had been kidnapped by the dog-doping gang. The claimant argued that while she was staying with him, they had been seen out together, and anyone who had seen him with her would assume that he was a member of the gang. The article did not mention his name, and several of the details it mentioned about the gang members did not apply to him. The court said that ordinary readers often skim-read articles and would not necessarily notice the inconsistent details; if, on reading the article they concluded that the claimant was the person meant, then identification was proved. The jury found for the claimant.

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Published to a third party

There is no publication if statement

Is by D to C

By D to D’s spouse 

Huth v Huth

The defendant sent through the post in an unclosed envelope a written communication which the plaintiffs alleged was defamatory of them. The communication was taken out of the envelope and read by a butler who was a servant at the house to which the envelope was addressed in breach of his duty and out of curiosity. In an action for libel brought by the plaintiffs against the defendant

held, that there was no evidence of publication by the defendant of the communication, and that therefore the action would not lie.

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Republication

Liability of orginal maker

Slipper v BBC

The plaintiff, a retired policeman was featured in a film about the Great Train Robbery. He sought to say that paper reviews of the film, and trailers worked to spread the libel, and should count in the assessment of damages against the defendant, who in turn sought to have that leading struck out.

Held: Whether reviews and trailers should affect the damages was a matter of fact and for the jury alone. It was not appropriate to strike it out. The plaintiff would be in a position to prove at trial that the passages from the reviews repeated the defamatory sting of the film, and that the defendant could have reasonably foreseen that they would.

Mcmanus v Beckam

Whilst visiting the claimants’ autograph shop the defendant allegedly claimed that a signed photograph of her husband, David Beckham, was not genuine. The shop sought to rely on the subsequent publication in the media of the defendant’s alleged claims in support of its claim for damages. The judge at first instance struck out the shop’s plea in this respect.

Held: he defendant knew that what she had allegedly said was likely to be reported and that if she slandered someone that slander was likely to be repeated or a reasonable person in the position of the defendant should have appreciated that there was a signficant risk that what she had allegedly said would be repeated

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Defamation defences

Limitation period – 18 DA 2013

Innocent dissemination

Offer of amends

Truth

Publication on am atter of public interest

Website operators

Privilege

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Innocent dissemination

Is a defence is the person involved can prove that they are not an author, editor or publisher of the statement. They took reasonable care in relation to its publication and did not know and had no reason to believe that what they did causedor contributed to the publication of the defamatory statement,

Normally covers everyone in the contribution or distribution of statements e.g. printers, retail agents, distributers. Also protects broadcaster of live programess with no effective control over maker.

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Offer of amends

For unilateral defamation

Is an offer:

To make a suitable correction and apology in a manner that is reasonable and practicable

To publish the correction

There is no defence if the person knows about the circulation of false statement

 

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Truth

Defendant must prove

1)    The truth or substantial truth of each defamatory statement

2)    The truth of any reasonable interpretation which may be understood of the words complained of an

3)    The truth of any innuendos lying behind words

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Honest opinion

Requires:

A statement of opinions

That indicates the basis of that opinion

Honest person could have held that honest opinion on the basis of facts/facts in privileged statements

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Public interest

S4 DA 2013

Is intended to reflect ‘the existing common aw as mostly set out in flood v times newspaper’

Statement made on a matter of public interest

D reasonably believed that publication was in the public interest

Regard to all circs of case & its only for the court to decide what allowance to make for editorial judgement

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Website operators

Godfrey v Demon internet

An Internet Service Provider who was re-distributing Usenet postings it had received, to its users in general, remained a publisher at common law, even though he was not such within the definitions of the Act, and it was therefore liable in defamation after failing to remove a posting which it then continued to distribute after the libel had been notified to it. The claimant applied to strike out that part of the defence which denied that it was a publisher.

Held: That part of the application succeeded.

There is a defence if operator (D) did not post statement unless; anonymous posting and C cannot identify maker; C gives D notice of complaint and Dd fails to respond (take it down) or if C can demonstrate malice by D in relation to the posting

 

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Privilege

Absolute privilege 

Qualified privilege (if malice is shown defence fails)

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