Radu v Houston & Another (No.2)
Reference:  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
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Instructing Solicitors: Carter-Ruck for the Claimant; Blake Lapthorn Tarlo Lyons for the Defendants
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.