Seray-Wurie v Charity Commission of England and Wales
Reference:  EWHC 870 (QB)
Court: Queen's Bench Division
Judge: Eady J
Date of judgment: 23 Apr 2008
Summary: Defamation - Striking out - Summary judgment - Qualified privilege - Malice
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Instructing Solicitors: The Claimant in person; Treasury Solicitor for the Defendant
The Claimant issued proceedings for libel in respect of publication on the Defendant’s website of the results of an inquiry which it had carried out under s.8 Charities Act 1993 into a charity of which the Claimant was chairman of trustees. The Defendant applied to have part of the proceedings struck out under CPR 3.4 and for summary judgment under CPR 24.2 in respect of the libel claim.
(1) Whether publication was on an occasion of qualified privilege on traditional or Reynolds grounds;
(2) Whether there was any case on malice fit to be left to a jury.
Granting the Defendant summary judgment on the defamation claim and striking out the remainder of the claim:
(1) Publication was on an occasion of qualified privilege on traditional duty/interest grounds. There was no need to consider whether Reynolds privilege also applied (for which summary judgment would be less likely to be appropriate) but dicta of the Privy Council in Seaga v Harper should not be read as implying that publications to the world at large can only be covered by Reynolds privilege.
(2) The Claimant alleged a general conspiracy against him but there were no particulars from which a jury could conclude that the Defendant was actuated by malice.
The law is in a state of development concerning qualified privilege as it applies to publications to the world at large. This case provides authority that, at least as far as non-media cases are concerned, such wide publication can be justified under traditional common law duty/interest tests. Although Reynolds is said to have had a “liberalising” effect, it would seem that summary judgment would still be harder to obtain for a Defendant relying solely on a Reynolds defence.