Full case report

Gillick v Brook Advisory Centres & Another (No.2)

Reference 12/03/2002
Court Queen's Bench Division

Judge Gray J

Date of Judgment 12 Mar 2002


Summary

Defamation – Libel – Summary Disposal – s.8 Defamation Act 1996 – Determination of Meaning – Whether words complained of were defamatory


Facts

The Claimant, Victoria Gillick, complained that she had been defamed in a factsheet published by the Defendants which included the words “the legal case taken by Victoria Gillick in the early 1980s confused young people over their rights to confidential advice and deterred many from seeking contraceptive help … although the case concluded in 1985 in favour of young people’s rights, fear and uncertainty lingered on among teenagers and professionals working with them”. She contended that the meaning borne by those words was that she “was morally responsible for a 23 per cent increase in pregnancies among 15 to 19 year-olds during the 1980s”. The Court of Appeal, reversing Eady J, ruled that the meaning was capable of being defamatory of the Claimant. The Defendants, having abandoned their subsantive defences, applied for Summary Disposal.


Issue

(1) Whether the Claimant’s meaning was, in fact, defamatory; (2) If so, what relief should the Claimant be granted under s.8 Defamation Act 1996.


Held

(1) The words were not defamatory of the Claimant, as they did not suggest any culpability on her behalf. (2) Judgment granted for the Defendants.


Comment

As tribunal of fact under s.8, Gray J was able to determine the meaning. Although the Court of Appeal held that the words were capable of bearing a defamatory meaning, Gray J held that in fact they did not defame the Claimant. (Gray J has expressed doubt in Ferguson v Associated Newspapers Limited (15 March 2002) as to whether it is appropriate to use the s.8 procedure where there is a dispute as to meaning.) The Claimant appealed and the action settled before the appeal.


Instructing Solicitors

Bindman & Partners for the Defendants


Links

Gillick's £5,000 in libel case - The Guardian
I've no cash, says libel loser Gillick - The Guardian
Morality campaigner's libel claim dismissed - The Guardian
Morals campaigner wins damages - BBC
'Penniless' Gillick loses libel action - Daily Telegraph