Allowing Ds’ appeal and striking out C’s claim:
(1) The Judge’s exercise of discretion was flawed and the limitation period should not have been disapplied:
(a) There was serious and unexplained delay by C in this case. The delay was excessive in the context of a limitation period of one year and in the context of a libel claim in which special considerations apply. The key period of delay was after C found out about the case report in February 2012. A careful and objective analysis of the correspondence which followed demonstrated that C’s object was not “continued discussions with regard to redress for the publications” or “bona fide negotiations for a further year” as he asserted. Instead, C had engaged in repetitive and protracted correspondence in which the pursuit of vindication assumed only a peripheral role. What C wanted was an investigation into “lies” and a finding of malice on the part of the court reporter.
(b) The Judge had relied heavily on his finding that C did not become aware of the one year limitation period until early 2013. However, there was no sure evidential basis for making this finding and such an inference could and should not have been drawn from the material before the court. In any case, ignorance of the limitation period will rarely if ever, be a factor which carries any significant weight. Ignorance could only be relevant in the most marginal type of case, where a claimant is actively misled for example, and this was not such a case.
(c) Further, the Judge made no mention of the delay after proceedings were issued. However, the post-proceedings delay was significant in this case. C knew there were significant limitation problems from the outset of the claim, if not before, but did not issue the s.32A application for some 6½ months later – a delay that was not explained.
(d) Looking at the matter afresh and considering the balance of prejudice, C had not made out a case for the disapplication of the limitation period. C failed to provide any or any persuasive evidence of the reasons for the delay between February 2012 and September 2013. This is not a case where the prejudice to the Ds from the loss of the limitation defence was so fortuitous that it was balanced out of existence, by prejudice to C in losing a claim which the Ds ought in justice and fairness to meet.
(2) Thus, looking at the claim that was left – this fell squarely within the Jameel jurisdiction. There were a miniscule number of publications in the 12 months leading up to the issue of the claim form, it could not be said the claim was brought to vindicate reputation in respect of those publications, damages would be minimal, the publications had long since been taken down and there could be no question of any need for an injunction. The claim would therefore be dismissed.