Full case report
Radu v Houston & Another (No.2)
Reference  EWHC 2328 (QB)
Court Queen's Bench Division
Judge Eady J
Date of Judgment 12 Oct 2007
Defamation – Libel – Mode of Trial – s.69 Supreme Court Act 1981 – Role of Jury – Trial of a Preliminary Issue – Qualified Privilege – Responsible Journalism – Reportage – Duty/ Interest
C sued D over an article published in Royalty Monthly entitled, Scandal in Romania as Princess Margarita’s husband is branded an imposter. D relied upon defences of qualified privilege that were ordered to be determined at a separate trial of those defences in October 2007. Before the trial C contended that the hearing should be by Judge alone and D submitted that there should be a jury.
Whether or not the trial of the preliminary issue on qualified privilege should be heard by a Judge and Jury or a Judge alone.
(1) The trial of the preliminary issue should be by Judge alone. s.69(4) of the Supreme Court Act 1981 meant that at a trial of a preliminary issue there was no need to consider questions under s.69(1). Here, there were no advantages to having a jury where the issues they would have to determine were not identified and the trial would take longer; (2) obiter, were it necessary to do, the Court would have removed the jury by holding that there would be a prolonged examination of documents: s.69(1).
This is another example of the Court using its power to remove a jury under s.69(4) rather than the usual route of ruling that there would be prolonged examination of documents under s.69(1). It is becoming harder and harder to convince a court that a jury should determine disputes of fact, especially in cases where there is a defence of qualified privilege.
Carter-Ruck for the Claimant; Blake Lapthorn Tarlo Lyons for the Defendants
More from 5RB
5RB is the pre-eminent set in the area for handling defamation, privacy, contempt and data protection matters. Interviewees praise the set for having great depth and quality of counsel, and note that it boasts many of the top barristers in the field. Get the lowdown here.
New 22nd Edition of Clerk & Lindsell on Torts, published by Sweet & Maxwell. Further info here.