Miller v Associated Newspapers Ltd (No.2)

Reference: [2005] EWHC 21 (QB)

Court: Queen's Bench Division

Judge: Eady J

Date of judgment: 18 Jan 2005

Summary: Defamation - libel - justification - permission to amend - whether words complained of were capable of Chase level 3 meaning - whether Defendant can rely on Claimant's non-disclosure of relevant documents and/or misrepresentation of their content - lies probative of guilt - admission by conduct

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Appearances: Adam Speker (Defendant) 

Instructing Solicitors: WHCG for the Claimant; Reynolds Porter Chamberlain for the Defendant

Facts

The Claimant, a Detective Chief Inspector, sued the Defendant in respect of articles published in the Daily Mail and Evening Standard on 11 September 2001. These reported on an internal police investigation into the allegations of sexual assault made by Nadine Milroy Sloan against Neil and Christine Hamilton. It was said that the report found the Hamiltons should never have been arrested, and the investigation was a fiasco. It was said that the Claimant led that investigation. The article also mentioned an earlier investigation into the alleged rape of a 17 year old woman known as Miss B, stating that this had been thrown out by a judge on the basis that the investigation was “grossly incompetent”, and that the Claimant was facing disciplinary charges over it. The Defendant’s amended defence raised a plea of justification (a defence of Reynolds qualified privilege having been struck out). It applied to extend the justification plea by re-amendment.

Issue

Whether the Defendant should have permission to re-amend its defence of justification to include (amongst other matters):
(a) a Lucas-Box meaning that the Claimant was suspected of neglect of duty in respect of the Miss B investigation;
(b) in support of its case that the Claimant was guilty of neglect of duty in that case, allegations that in the course of the proceedings the Claimant had misrepresented and lied about the outcome of two sets of disciplinary proceedings brought against him, one relating to and another relevant to the Miss B case, and suppressed documents evidencing the disciplinary rulings.

Held

Granting the application,
(1) a meaning of actual suspicion of neglect was within the third tier of meaning recognised in <A
href=”https://www.5rb.com/5rb/casereports/detail.asp?case=114″ target=_parent>Chase v News Group; it was legitimate in principle and the court, whilst doubting that the words complained of in respect of Miss B bore a meaning at this level, could not rule it out (<A
href=”https://www.5rb.com/5rb/casereports/detail.asp?case=89″ target=_parent>Berezovsky v Forbes referred to);
(2) Subsequent conduct which is capable of indicating a guilty mind may be relied on to establish guilt: Moriarty v L C & D Ry (1870) LR 5 QB 314. Further, as shown by the standard Lucas direction in criminal cases, a lie can sometimes be corroborative of guilt. Accordingly, the plea was permissible.

Comment

Two points of some importance emerge from what was otherwise a fairly routine amendment application. First, the court followed Musa King in permitting a plea justifying actual suspicion, even though the words were capable of a meaning as high as guilt. Secondly, the decision affirms that a Claimant’s conduct of the case, and in particular lies he has told in the course of it, can be relied on to prove justification. This is not the first time a defendant has accused a claimant of lying, and sought to rely on this by way of justification. This is, however, the first time a court has ruled on the basis on which such lies are admissible to prove the truth of the alleged libel.