Gilbert v MGN Ltd

Reference: [2000] EMLR 680

Court: Queen's Bench Division

Judge: Eady J

Date of judgment: 17 Apr 2000

Summary: Defamation - libel - rugby ball manufacturer - qualified privilege - Reynolds - summary disposal


Instructing Solicitors: MGN Legal Department for the Defendant


The Sunday Mirror published an article about alleged oppression and mistreatment of staff at the foreign manufacturing plant used by Gilbert, the rugby ball manufacturer. A second article alleged that the firm had broken a promise to investigate these allegations. Gilbert sued for libel, and the defendant pleaded Reynolds qualified privilege. Gilbert sought summary disposal under s8 of the Defamation Act 1996, contending that the defence had no real prospect of success.


Did the Reynolds defence have any real prospect of success?


The defence had no real prospect of success. The allegations were serious. The defendant’s source was of low status and reliability, and the defendant had failed to take adequate steps to verify the information. It had failed to put the allegations made by the source to the claimants for comment. There was no urgency, other than the defendant’s commercial imperative to meet a deadline.


This was the first time that s8 of the Defamation Act 1996 had been applied, and the decision seemed at the time to suggest that “Reynolds” qualified privilege cases would often be dealt with in short order, on the basis of agreed facts, or assumptions made in favour of the defendants. Subsequent developments, such as the long-running Loutchansky litigation, showed that this was not to be.