Full case report

Radu v Houston & Another (No.2)

Reference [2007] EWHC 2328 (QB)
Court Queen's Bench Division

Judge Eady J

Date of Judgment 12 Oct 2007


Summary

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


Facts

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.


Issue

Whether or not the trial of the preliminary issue on qualified privilege should be heard by a Judge and Jury or a Judge alone.


Held

(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).


Comment

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.


Download this Judgment


Instructing Solicitors

Carter-Ruck for the Claimant; Blake Lapthorn Tarlo Lyons for the Defendants