Loutchansky v Times Newspapers Ltd and others (Nos. 2-5)
Reference:  EWCA Civ 1805;  QB 783;  2 WLR 640;  1 All ER 652;  EMLR 241
Court: Court of Appeal
Judge: Lord Phillips MR, Simon Brown & Tuckey LLJ
Date of judgment: 5 Dec 2001
Summary: Defamation - Libel - Qualified Privilege - limitation - test to be applied in determining whether Reynolds qualified privilege available - website publication.
Desmond Browne QC - Leading Counsel (Claimant)
Instructing Solicitors: Olswang for the Claimant; Reynolds Porter Chamberlain for the Defendant
The Claimant was an international businessman.The Defendants were the publisher and editor of the Times and two of its journalists. The Claimant sued for libel in respect of two Times articles (and, in a second action started a year later, in respect of the same articles on the Times website) which accused him of being involved in serious international criminal activities including money laundering and the smuggling of nuclear weapons.The Defendants pleaded qualified privilege, but not justification.
(1) Whether the Judge was correct in ruling that the articles were not covered by qualified privilege.
(2) Whether there was a single publication rule in English law.
(3) Whether the Judge was correct to order summary disposal of the damages claim even though the issue of liability had been decided by a jury.
(1) The question the court had to ask was the single composite question whether in all the circumstances the duty-interest test had been satisfied so that qualified privilege attached: Reynolds v Times Newspapers, Al-Fagih v HH Saudi Research & Marketing (UK) Ltd; Lange v Atkinson distinguished.
Reynolds was a different jurisprudential creature from the traditional qualified privilege from which it sprang. The interest was that of the public in a modern democracy in free expression and in a free and vigorous press. The corresponding duty upon the journalist was to discharge that function by behaving as a responsible journalist.
(2) There was no single publication rule in English law.
(3) Summary disposal of the damages claim was rightly ordered.
This is an important application and development of Reynolds privilege, clarifying the test of responsible journalism to be applied.