Richardson v (1) Trinity Mirror (Merseyside) Ltd (2) Neil Docking
Reference:  EWHC 1927 (QB)
Court: High Court, QBD
Judge: Soole J
Date of judgment: 28 Jul 2016
Summary: Libel – report of court proceedings - qualified privilege – rehabilitation of offenders – privacy – negligence - harassment
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Adam Wolanski QC (Defendant)
Instructing Solicitors: Claimant in person, Foot Anstey LLP for the Defendants
The Claimant sued the Liverpool Echo over an article reporting a hearing in the Crown Court at which she had been sentenced for fraud. She claimed that after the hearing she had contacted the newspaper to explain that she was at risk of being attacked by a violent ex-partner and had received assurances that the newspaper would not publish certain identifying details in any report of the case. The newspaper denied it had provided any such assurance. The Claimant alleged that the report the newspaper then published was in breach of the assurances, was inaccurate and referred to a spent conviction in breach of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. The Defendants applied for summary judgment.
- Was the report a fair and accurate report of court proceedings?
- Did the Claimant have a reasonable expectation of privacy arising out of the assurances she claimed the newspaper had given her?
- The report was a fair and accurate report of court proceedings. Whilst it did contain inaccuracies, they were not sufficiently significant to deprive the Defendants of a defence of statutory privilege. There was no arguable case of malice.
- The claim in libel was also an abuse of process, since it was an attempt to re-litigate issues determined in the Crown Court.
- The previous conviction was referred to during the hearing in the Crown Court. Reports of it were therefore protected by statutory privilege, regardless of the fact the conviction was spent: S.8 of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 considered.
- The claim for breach of privacy was bound to fail. Even if the newspaper had given the Claimant assurances about not publishing identifying information, this did not give rise to a reasonable expectation of privacy. There could be no reasonable expectation of privacy in respect of identifying information given in open court.
- The Defendants owed the Claimant no duty of care so the claim in negligence failed.
- There was no basis for a claim under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.
A demonstration of the difficulties confronting anyone seeking to sue over reports of proceedings held in open court, even where the media are said to have provided assurances that they will refrain from including identifying details in their reports.