Jameel & Another v Times Newspapers Ltd (No.2)
Reference:  EWHC 1219 (QB)
Court: Queen's Bench Division
Judge: Gray J
Date of judgment: 15 Jun 2005
Summary: Defamation - Libel - Statutory qualified privilege - Justification - Grounds to inquire - Case management - Striking out
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James Price QC - Leading Counsel (Claimant)
Justin Rushbrooke QC (Claimant)
Instructing Solicitors: Carter-Ruck for the Claimant
The Times sought to defend a report of the reasons for Mr Jameel’s joinder as a defendant in the New York lawsuit brought against those supposedly responsible – mostly by alleged funding – for the 9/11 terrorist attacks, by pleas of Reynolds privilege, statutory privilege for court reports and/or public documents, and justification of a “sufficient grounds to inquire” meaning.
It was accepted that the Reynolds plea would have to go for trial. The issue raised on the PTR was whether the statutory privilege and justification pleas were viable.
(1) Although parts of the words complained of were capable of being defended as reports of court proceedings and/or public documents, they added little or nothing to the real sting of the libel. Also the real privilege defence was the Reynolds one. On these grounds the judge would have dismissed the statutory privilege plea on case management grounds. But since privilege was to be tried by judge alone, there was nothing to be gained by doing so.
(2) The reasons given by the New York plaintiffs’ lawyers for his joinder as a defendant did not amount to sufficient grounds for inquiry. The judge therefore struck out the justification defence.
The significance of this case lies in the light it sheds on the difficult Chase level 3 meaning and its justification. The judge did not analyse the meaning, which begs the question for what sort of inquiry there are said to be grounds. There is a big difference between material which justifies a telephone call to the Claimant to ask him what is up, and material which justifies a full-blown police, judicial or governmental inquiry. What the decision does show is that where the inquiry, for which there are said to be grounds, is a serious one, justification will require some sort of evidence to connect the subject to the alleged wrongdoing and pointing to his/her possible guilt.