Safeway v Tate

Reference: [2000] EWCA Civ 335; [2001] QB 1120; [2001] 2 WLR 1377

Court: Court of Appeal

Judge: Otton LJ Mantell LJ Sir Ronald Waterhouse

Date of judgment: 18 Dec 2000

Summary: Defamation - Libel - CPR Part 24 - Summary Judgment - Right to Jury Trial - s.69 Supreme Court Act 1981

Appearances: Adam Wolanski KC (Claimant) 

Instructing Solicitors: Lawrence Jones for Claimant


The claimant brought libel proceedings against the defendant in respect of allegations of fraud. The defence of justification was struck out. The judge granted the claimant’s application for summary judgment on the basis that the the defendant had no real prospect of succeeding on the issue of whether the words complained of were defamatory. The Defendant appealed.


Application of Part 24 to defamation claims and whether this was in conflict with the claimant’s right to jury trial under S. 69(1) of the Supreme Court Act 1981.


Appeal allowed on the ground that the right to jury trial provided by s.69(1) of the Supreme Court Act 1981 was not overridden by the Civil Procedure Rules, and accordingly CPR Part 24.2 did not permit a judge sitting alone to determine questions of fact which should be decided by a jury.


The Court of Appeal in Alexander v Arts Council of Wales [2001] 1 W.L.R. 1840 pointed out that the basis of the decision in Safeway v Tate was that there was a material issue of fact fit to be placed before a jury, namely, whether the words were defamatory. If the judge had properly come to the conclusion that the words were only capable of having a defamatory meaning, there would be no issue to go to the jury and summary judgment could be granted.