His Highness Prince Moulay Hicham Ben Abdullah Al Alaoui of Morocco v Elaph Publishing Limited
Reference:  EWHC 2021 (QB)
Court: High Court, Queen's Bench Division
Judge: Dingemans J
Date of judgment: 16 Jul 2015
Summary: Defamation - Data Protection - inaccuracy - permission to amend
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Justin Rushbrooke KC - Leading Counsel (Claimant)
Richard Munden (Claimant)
Instructing Solicitors: Lee & Thompson for C, Payne Hicks Beach for D
C had brought a claim in libel in respect of an article published on D’s website on 8 and 9 October 2014. In April 2015 Dingemans J gave judgment in relation to the pleaded defamatory meanings of the article, where he found that one of the pleaded meanings was one which the article was capable of bearing and was capable of being defamatory of C, but two others were not.
C sought permission to amend his claim to plead a new meaning in the libel claim and to add a claim under the Data Protection Act 1998.
Whether C should be given permission to:
(1) plead a new meaning in the libel claim; and/or
(2) add a claim under the Data Protection Act 1998 on the grounds that the data was inaccurate and infringed the data protection principles, and therefore there had been unfair and unlawful processing of C’s personal data.
(1) C was not granted permission to plead a new meaning in the libel claim. The new meaning is not capable of being defamatory of C as the meaning would damage C in the eyes of a section of the public only, and this is not enough (Modi v Clarke).
(2) C was granted permission to add a claim under the Data Protection Act 1998. Although Eady J had said in Quinton v Peirce that he was not persuaded that it was necessary to fashion a parallel set of remedies to defamation by means of the Data Protection Act, that was in the context of a case involving election leaflets and statements which were comment. He did not say that the Data Protection Act could never be used where a defamation claim had been made, and indeed in other cases such as Law Society v Kordowski both have been made together.
The claim under the Data Protection Act was capable of being a real and substantial tort.
A useful confirmation that a claim under the Data Protection Act 1998 may be run alongside a defamation claim. Doing so may be of particular interest to claimants where, although inaccurate, the statement complained of is not defamatory, or cannot be shown to have caused serious harm to the claimant’s reputation.