Full case report

Cook & Carlton Communications Ltd v News Group Newspapers Ltd (No.2)

Reference [2002] EWHC 1070 (QB)
Court Queen's Bench Division

Judge Eady J

Date of Judgment 21 May 2002


Summary

Defamation – Libel – Justification – Amendment – Principles governing late application to amend to add extensive particulars of justification – Overriding Objective.


Facts

News Group Newspapes sought to make substantial re-re-amendments to its defences in two libel actions arising from articles published in the News of the World about the television presenter Roger Cook. The application was made some five months before the trial date and some 20 months after the defences were first filed. The proposed amendments were very extensive and would entail the claimants providing correspondingly detailed replies, addressing further disclosure of documents and significantly adding to the witness statements. Carlton opposed certain of the proposed amendments because it contended knowledge of individuals was not properly to be attributed to the corportate entity.


Issue

Whether permission to amend should be granted.


Held

(1) There was a public interest in the defendant being able to deploy the defences it wished provided they were relevant and had a realistic prospect of success. It was undesirable for a claimant to obtain vindication on a false basis – Basham v Gregory 21 Feb 1996 considered. (2) Against that, the overriding objective required careful consideration of the consequences of a late amendment in terms of delay, cost and stress. If the amendments fell into the category of “more of the same” the Court might be reluctant to expand the scope of the trial if the amendments could have been made earlier. The Court would exclude anything that was peripheral. Only particulars supporting the central allegations that the programmes were “cynical fakery”. McPhilemy v Times Newspapers Ltd [1999] 3 All ER 775 applied.


Comment

Case management (in any meaningful sense) in defamation proceedings is not easy. The Basham v Gregory caution about false vindication is still valid and it has the potential to wreck the best laid trial timetable. Eady J’s decision in this case to concentrate on the core issues in the case is probably as far as the case management objectives of the CPR can go before putting justice to hazard.


Instructing Solicitors

Peter Carter-Ruck & Partners/Ross & Craig for the Claimants; Farrer & Co for the Defendant