Full case report

Mark v Associated Newspapers Limited

Reference [2002] EWCA Civ 772; [2002] EMLR 839
Court Court of Appeal

Judge Simon Brown, Mummery & Dyson LJJ

Date of Judgment 30 May 2002


Summary

Defamation – Libel – Meaning – Repetition rule – Bane and antidote – Whether repetition rule consistent with ECHR Article 10 jurisprudence – Interface between defences of justification and Reynolds privilege


Facts

The Blairs’ former nanny sued the Daily Mail in libel over an article which alleged that she had “misrepresented her position” when she denied that she had authorised the publication of material from a book she had written about her time with the Blairs. The judge struck the claim out, holding the article was not capable of being defamatory of her, on the basis that the ‘antidote’ in the article neutralised the defamatory ‘bane’.


Issue

Whether the article was capable of being defamatory of Miss Mark; in particular, whether the repetition rule had been applied correctly by the judge.


Held

The Court of Appeal reversed the decision of the judge to strike out a libel claim by the Blairs’ former nanny against the Daily Mail, over an article concerning her proposed book. It rejected a submission that ECHR Article 10 jurisprudence supported the view that the article was not actionable because it was a balanced and neutral report of the claims and counterclaims of others.


Comment

Although the Court of Appeal itself has said that the courts must be prepared to cull sacred cows where the Human Rights Act requires it, they are wary of arguments rooted in ECHR jurisprudence, that the law of meaning must be modified: see Berezovsky v Michaels [2000] 1 WLR 1004. But the judgments indicate that the same cases as the Defendants relied on in this case may support modifications of the Reynolds qualified privilege defence.


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Instructing Solicitors

Reynolds Porter Chamberlain for the Defendant