An interesting and important judgment in two respects. Firstly, in confirming the level of particularity that is required in pleading publication in an internet defamation claim, following the ruling in Al-Amoudi v Brisard.
More notably perhaps, it tackles head on the tricky issue of how much lenience litigants-in-person should be given by the Courts in the technical pleading of libel claims. Master Eastman expressly followed the approach of Tugendhat J in O’Dwyer v ITV and took into account the firmer line that was being taken towards civil case management through the Jackson reforms and the Court of Appeal in Mitchell v News Group Newspapers. He then made a number of interesting and robust observations:
“The claimant is a litigant in person. The defendant has solicitors and counsel acting for him. I have to approach this situation with a measure of care… Against that, if a person who is a claimant does not have legal representation, then the person defending the claim is potentially put to greater difficulty and expense in answering the claim, because they may be required to spend more time and effort dealing with an improperly constituted or an inadequately constituted claim and pleadings.Defamation is a particularly difficult area in that regard, because it attracts litigants in person, on the one hand, but, on the other hand, the pleading of defamation cases is a more precise and technical art than many other areas of the law.”
“[Tugendhat J] said that if there are issues and difficulties and technical issues… and the job has been made more difficult by the inadequacy of the work of the unlegally assisted party, it is important for the court to grasp the nettle, if there is a nettle to be grasped, and resolve things as soon as possible.”
“Pleading in defamation cases is not like firing a shotgun and spreading pellets all over the place. It is much more like target shooting – precisely aimed and focused… Pleading in defamation cases is a minefield for the amateur. I am afraid that [C] has not got through the minefield.”