Milne v Telegraph Group Ltd
Reference:  EMLR 760
Court: Queen's Bench Division
Judge: Sir Oliver Popplewell
Date of judgment: 2 Feb 2001
Summary: Defamation - libel - summary disposal - s.8 Defamation Act 1996
Instructing Solicitors: Andrew Milne & Co for the Claimant; Dechert for the Defendant
The Claimant was the “whistle-blower” who first reported Keith Vaz MP to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. He is a solicitor. He complained that, in a Sunday Telegraph article he was accused of “being reasonably suspected of being a vindictive liar”. Whilst he was not named, he argued that his identity would have been apparent to a substantial number of people. The Sunday Telegraph defended with a plea of qualified privilege.
(1) The Defendant asked that the action be summarily disposed of in its favour on the basis of its defence in qualified privilege.
(2) If the court would not do so, the Defendant asked that the court summarily dispose of the action in favour of the Claimant and award him damages (capped at £10,000 under the summary disposal regime).
Matter summarily disposed of in the Claimant’s favour and an award made to him of £5,000.
An ingenious use of the summary disposal procedure by a defendant: try to get a summary disposal in your favour but if you fail submit to the court’s jurisdiction to award damages up to £10,000 in order to limit your downside.
This case is a typical example of a low award made by a judge, in this instance in the face of a complaint of a very serious allegation made in a major newspaper by a practising solicitor.