Full case report

Lillie & Reed v Newcastle City Council & others

Reference [2002] EWHC 252 (QB)
Court Queen's Bench Division

Judge Eady J

Date of Judgment 7 Feb 2002


Summary

Defamation – Libel – Malice- Application to strike out plea of malice at the close of the Claimants’ case


Facts

At the close of the Claimants’ case in this libel action brought in respect of child abuse allegations the Review Team Defendants applied to strike out the Claimants’ pleaded case on malice.


Issue

Whether the plea of malice should be struck out.


Held

dismissing the application. The content of the report sued upon dealt with very serious issues indeed. The Review Team Defendants found two of their fellow citizens guilty of rape and multiple child abuse behind closed doors in the certain knowledge of the consequences that would flow for the claimants.
There is no system in this country where people can be condemned as guilty of any serious criminal offence let alone rape and mass child abuse, without a trial and behind closed doors. Anyone who arrogates to themselves such a responsibility must expect, if necessary, to have their reasoning processes and their motives brought into the sunlight and subjected to close scrutiny. Here it was necessary and if the pleaded case was made out the Review Team would be malicious: Horrocks v Lowe [1975] AC 135 and Alexander v Arts Council of Wales [2001] 1 WLR 1840 applied.


Comment

This is a useful short judgment on the principles to apply when considering removing the issue of malice at any stage of a case. Of course in this case the Judge went on to find that the Review Team were indeed malicious: [2002] EWHC 1600 (QB)


Instructing Solicitors

SJ Cornish for the Claimants; Wragge & Co for the Defendants