Full case report

Steinberg v Pritchard Englefield & other

Reference [2005] EWCA Civ 288
Court Court of Appeal (Civil Division)

Judge Ward LJ, Sedley LJ, and Longmore LJ

Date of Judgment 3 Mar 2005


Summary

Defamation – Libel – Appeal – Summary disposal – Sections 8 to 10 Defamation Act 1996 – Website publication to the world at large – Whether claim could be an abuse of process – Jameel v Dow Jones


Facts

D appealed from a decision by Eady J to give summary judgment pursuant to ss8 to 10 Defamation Act 1996. Cs sued over a letter published by D on the internet that alleged that C artificially and unprofessionally inflated their solicitor and client costs. The letter was accessible to anyone who fed Cs’ names into a search engine.


Issue

(1) Whether the appeal should take place;
(2) Whether the appeal should succeed;
(3) Whether the claim was an abuse


Held

Dismissing the appeal;
(1) There was no reason, when D was fully able to argue his case, to adjourn.
(2) Both grounds put forward by D – that he could not act in person and that there was a breach of art 6 and therefore the finding was unjust – were dismissed.
(3) The claim was not an abuse. Since the letter was available to the world at large the inference of substantial publication was irresistible.


Comment

Despite Sedley LJ stating in [12] that the judgment ‘is, not in any circumstances, going to be a source of law, for any purpose’ it has been cited over and over again in Jameel v Dow Jones cases because the Judge considered there was an inference of substantial publication because the letter was available to whoever would read it online. Nowadays, the means for finding the number of readers of an online article or posting are more sophisticated.


Instructing Solicitors

Pritchard Englefield for R


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