As Nicklin J said in his judgment, “Mr Lachaux’s name is likely always to be associated with the interpretation of s.1 Defamation Act 2013 and its requirement that, in a defamation claim, a claimant must show that a published statement has caused (or is likely to cause) serious harm to reputation” .
Following this judgment, Mr Lachaux’s name is also likely now to be associated with the interpretation and application of the defence of public interest under s.4, joining a relatively small group of cases on that issue.
The judgment makes a number of points that will be of interest to media lawyers and professionals. For example, the judgment contains a clear indication that if media organisations defending libel proceedings wish to avail themselves of a s.4 defence they should in general be able to prove their public interest-related beliefs and the rationale for those beliefs by means of contemporaneous notes or records of decisions in relation to their thought-processes at the time of publication. In so doing, Nicklin J pointed out that “doctors, nurses, teachers, police officers, lawyers, surveyors, dentists, accountants, opticians, and architects” were all expected to keep records in the course of carrying out their professional duties, and there was no reason why professional journalists should not either; this was “not an unworkable, unreasonable, or unachievable objective set by the lawyers or the Court” . His conclusions in this regard and more generally were supported by consideration of the Defendants’ own codes of conducts and the current IPSO and IMPRESS editorial codes, all of which contained obligations in relation to record keeping. In this way, the judge considered that he was not holding the Defendants to a standard of journalistic conduct any higher than the one espoused by the Defendants themselves or the UK print media more generally.