Ifedha v Archant Regional Ltd
Reference:  EWHC 2819 (QB)
Court: Queen's Bench Division
Judge: Tugendhat J
Date of judgment: 8 Nov 2010
Libel - Stay - Application to lift stay - Strike out - CPR r.3.4(2) - Reasonable grounds for bringing claim - Abuse of process - Summary judgment - Qualified privilege - s.15, Defamation Act 1996 - Report of council press release - Justification
Download: Download this judgment
Richard Munden (Defendant)
Instructing Solicitors: Reynolds Porter Chamberlain for D; C in person
C had owned and managed Soho Beach Club, which he described as a ‘swingers club’ and which had been the subject of articles in the Kilburn Times, published by D, after Camden Council had removed its alcohol licence.
C brought proceedings for libel over two of these articles. D applied for the claim to be struck out and/or summary judgment granted and/or security for costs. Before that application was heard, Master Eyre stayed the claim on the basis that the Particulars of Claim failed to comply with the CPR. C re-drafted his Particulars of Claim a number of times and re-submitted them to the Master (adding reference to a third Kilburn Times article) and seeking general, special and exemplary damages totalling £820,000, but he refused to lift the stay. C applied to have the latest order set aside. D re-instated its application for strike out and/or summary judgment and/or security for costs, contending that the pleading disclosed no reasonable grounds for bringing the claim and that, even if it did, the relevant parts of the articles were reports of a Camden Council press release such that D had an insuperable qualified privilege defence under s.15 of the Defamation Act 1996, and that further, based on C’s own admissions in the pleadings and in public documents, it would have a defence of justification and/or the claim would be an abuse of process.
(1) Whether the stay should be lifted;
(2) Whether the claim should be struck out and/or summary judgment granted.
Dismissing C’s application to lift the stay and striking out the claim:
The latest pleading did not disclose a reasonable cause of action. On the basis of what C admitted in his statement, the action was worth no more than a nominal amount, if anything at all: the claim for damages bore no relation to the law or to reality.
The time had come to strike the action out. Even if C were given another opportunity to put the claim in order, it would have no real prospect of success given the statutory qualified privilege available to the Defendant for the reports of the press release (and the lack of any sustainable plea of malice) and the likely availability of a defence of justification.
A claimant will not be given an unlimited length of time to formulate his case properly. A claim that is not pleaded in accordance with the CPR (including the particular requirements for defamation cases) will eventually be struck out, particularly where, as here, the defendant has a qualified privilege defence and the claimant admits facts that either prove the words complained of true or come close to doing so.