Holley v Smyth

Reference: [1998] QB 726; [1998] 2 WLR 742; [1998] 1 All ER 853

Court: Court of Appeal

Judge: Auld, Slade, Staughton LLJ

Date of judgment: 4 Dec 1997

Summary: Defamation - libel - interim injunction - justification - whether motive of publisher relevant


Instructing Solicitors: Wright Hassall & Co for the Claimant; Dibb Lupton Alsop for the Defendant


The Defendant threatened to publish defamatory allegations of fraud unless he was paid a substantial sum of money that he claimed to have lost as a result of the alleged fraud. The Defendant said he would justify the allegations. Although the Judge did not find the allegations to be plainly untrue, he granted the injunction subject to allowing publication to public regulatory and investigative authorities.


If a defendant stated that he would justify the allegation complained of and such justification was arguable, whether his “improper” motive and the fact that the threat to publish might amount to blackmail entitle the claimant to an interim injunction to restrain defamation where one might not otherwise be granted.


The defendant’s motive was irrelevant. All that mattered was whether he asserted that he would justify the allegation complained of and that such an assertion was not unarguable. The rule in Bonnard v Perryman [1891] 2 Ch 269, CA, still held good in such circumstances. Injunction discharged.


This is the leading modern authority on the granting of interim injunctions in defamation and contains a useful review of the authorities going back to Coulson v Coulson (1887) 3 TLR 846. It should now be read alongside the section 12(3) Human Rights Act cases such as Cream Holdings v Banerjee [2003] Ch 650.