Cook & Carlton Communications plc v News Group Newspapers Ltd
Reference:  EWCA Civ 1644;  EMLR 299
Court: Court of Appeal
Judge: Simon Brown, Mantell and Latham LJJ
Date of judgment: 8 Nov 2001
Summary: Defamation - Libel - Justification - Justifying allegations sharing a common sting - Lucas-Box - Case management
Patrick Milmo QC - Leading Counsel (Claimant)
Godwin Busuttil (Claimant)
Instructing Solicitors: Peter Carter Ruck and Partners for Carlton; Farrer & Co for the Defendant
Eady J ruled, upon the Claimant’s application, that the defamatory meaning of the articles complained of was limited to allegations of faking in relation to the Cook Report television programme and that the case should be limited to this issue on case management grounds. Eady J accordingly struck out that part of the defendant’s Lucas-Box meaning and particulars of justification which referred to a different programme broadcast by the claimants called The Connection, substantial parts of which, notoriously, had been found to be faked. The defendant appealed.
(1) Whether the articles conveyed a general meaning of fakery entitling the Defendant to advance a case in relation to fakery in “The Connection”;
(2) Whether, nevertheless, it was right to exclude “The Connection” from the libel action on the grounds of case management
(1) The issue was whether the article was capable of bearing a general meaning of fakery. Eady J had been wrong to rule that the articles were incapable of bearing such a general meaning. Polly Peck (Holdings) Plc v Trelford (1986) QB 1000 applied. (2) Whilst the court undoubtedly had jurisdiction under CPR 3.1(2)(k) to exclude an issue from consideration, it would not be right to prevent the appellant from relying on fakery in relation to “The Connection” as part of its defence of the sting of fakery.
Contrary to optimistic statements after the implementation of the CPR, the Court of Appeal is finding that case management is not the “quick-fix” to cutting down defamation actions that they thought it might be.