Reference:  EWHC 3230 (QB)
Court: High Court Queen's Bench Division
Judge: Warby J
Date of judgment: 11 Dec 2017
Summary: Privacy - libel - harassment - injunction - blackmail
Jacob Dean (Claimant)
Instructing Solicitors: Taylor Wessing for the Claimant
The Claimant, well-known from his work in the entertainment business, had received an anonymous demand for payment if serious allegations of misconduct were not to be ‘released’ to news agencies and online. C made a complaint to the police, who were investigating. C sought an interim non-disclosure Order against Persons Unknown, relying on the torts of harassment, misuse of private information and libel.
Should an interim non-disclosure Order be granted, under one or all of the causes of action relied on?
The Court granted an Order in broadly the terms sought, finding that the C was more likely than not to succeed at trial, under each of the causes of action relied on.
The Judge found that Bonnard v Perryman was not a bar to an injunction being granted in libel, as there was nothing before the Court to indicate any sufficient basis for a defence of truth or public interest. However the Judge made some interesting obiter comments concerning the relevant test for an injunction to restrain the publication of a libel in a case of blackmail. The case of Holley v Smyth  QB 727 has traditionally been understood as finding that blackmail was no answer to Bonnard v Perryman; however on the Judge’s analysis “having reviewed the three judgments in Holley v Smyth it seems that the defamation rule may not apply to such a case.”
In many cases of blackmail it will be unnecessary, or inappropriate, to rely on a claim for libel. Often the information will be true, and even if not, harassment may be sufficient. However the door remains clearly open for the Holley v Smyth point to be fully argued in an appropriate case.