Tanner v Filby and Howell

Reference: 20/02/2003

Court: Queen's Bench Division

Judge: Eady J

Date of judgment: 20 Feb 2003

Summary: Defamation - Justification - Fair comment - Issue estoppel - Abuse of process - Fair Trial - Freedom of Expression - Human rights - Article 6 - Article 10 - European Convention on Human Rights

Instructing Solicitors: Clifford Chance for the Claimant. Cannings Connolly for the Defendants.


The first Defendant bought a ready-made car kit from the Claimant. When he had difficulties with his purchase, he contacted the Claimant, who he found uninterested and unhelpful. The first Defendant took the Claimant to the Small Claims Court, where he obtained costs and a monetary judgment.

The second Defendant owned and edited a magazine, in which he published a letter written by the first Defendant detailing the problems he had had with the Claimant. The Claimant brought an action for libel. The Defendants relied on justification and fair comment. The Claimant applied to strike out the defences on the grounds of abuse of process and issue estoppel.


Whether the Defendants were prevented from raising the defences of justification and fair comment by reason of issue estoppel or abuse of process


There was no issue estoppel. Preventing the Defendants from raising the defences of justification and fair comment would violate their rights under Article 6 and Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights. The application was dismissed.


The suggestion that the Defendants should have been prevented from expressing their dissatisfaction with the Claimant’s service because one of them had raised the issue in the Small Claims Court was robustly rejected by Eady J.