Milne v Express Newspapers (QBD)

Reference: [2002] EWHC 2564 (QB); [2003] 1 WLR 927; [2003] 1 All ER 482; [2003] EMLR 440

Court: Queen's Bench Division

Judge: Eady J

Date of judgment: 29 Nov 2002

Summary: Defamation - Offer of amends - s.4(3) Defamation Act 1996 - "knew or had reason to believe"

Appearances: James Price QC - Leading Counsel (Claimant) 

Instructing Solicitors: Andrew Milne & Co for the Claimant

Facts

The Claimant,a solicitor, reported Keith Vaz MP to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards for not declaring payments made to him by another solicitor, Sarosh Zaiwalla, when twice recommending him for an honour. Following a finding by the relevant Parliamentary Committee upholding the Claimant’s complaint, the Sunday Express published an article quoting Mr Zaiwalla. The agreed meaning of the article was that the Claimant was reasonably suspected of giving false evidence to the Parliamentary Commissioner. The Defendant made an offer of amends which the Claimant rejected.

Issue

Under what circumstances will a claimant who has rejected an offer of amends be be able to establish liability at a jury trial under the provisions of s.4(3) of the Defamation Act 1996.

Held

A claimant will only be able to establish liability before a jury if he can prove that the defendant was malicious in the sense that the defendant either knew or was recklessly indifferent as to the truth of the allegation complained of.

Comment

The Court of Appeal upheld Eady J’s approach.