Full case report

Miller v Associated Newspapers Ltd (No.3)

Reference [2005] EWHC 557 (QB)
Court Queen's Bench Division

Judge Eady J

Date of Judgment 8 Apr 2005


Summary

Defamation – libel – justification – trial of the action – meaning- whether the plea of justification succeeded


Facts

The Claimant, a former Detective Chief Inspector, now Superintendent, 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.


Issue

(1) the meaning of the words complained of in relation to NMS
(2) the meaning of the words complained of in relation to Miss B
(3) whether the plea of justification succeeded in relation to NMS
(4) whether the plea of justification succeeded in relation to Miss B


Held

(1) (NMS) The allegations corresponded broadly to the Defendant’s Lucas-Box meaning. For the justification defence it was not necessary to prove that the Claimant was solely responsible but was necessary to go further than establishing merely formal responsibility for the failures of more junior officers.
(2) (Miss B) The sting did not go beyond level 2 (reasonable grounds to suspect). It was not necessary to prove that the Claimant conducted the Miss B investigation himself or that he was actually incompetent. Reasonable grounds to suspect failures on his part would suffice.
(3) (NMS) The plea of justification was successful. The Claimant had a leading role and responsibility for the enquiry and was amongst those responsible for important failures.
(4) (Miss B) At the time of publication there were reasonable grounds to suspect the Claimant of neglect of supervisory duties.


Comment

The Judge pointed out that this case concerned a subject-matter of importance apt for investigation and comment in the national press. It was also notable for the number of police officers, including the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester, Michael Todd, who gave adverse evidence about the Claimant.


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Instructing Solicitors

WHCG for the Claimant; Reynolds Porter Chamberlain for the Defendant