Reference:  EWHC 1710 (QB);  1 WLR 495
Court: Queen's Bench Division
Judge: Eady J
Date of judgment: 11 Jul 2006
Summary: Defamation - Offer of Amends - Amount of compensation payable - limited publication
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Alexandra Marzec (Claimant)
Instructing Solicitors: Carter-Ruck for the Claimant
The Claimant, a journalist who had lived and worked in the UK for 8 years, sued in respect of an article in an Albanian language newspaper published in the jurisdiction that alleged that he had been implicated the in the 7/7 bombings. An apology appeared 5 months later. D1, the publisher, made an offer of amends that was accepted; D2, the editor, failed to acknowledge service and judgment was entered against him.
(1) How much compensation D1 should pay pursuant to his offer of amends?
(2) How much damages for libel D2 should pay?
(3) What procedure/approach the court should adopt when seeking to assess compensation under section 3 of the Defamation Act 1996 against one defendant and damages for libel against the other.
(1) The libel was of exceptional gravity. The starting point for damages was £180,000.
(2) The appropriate discount against the starting point bearing in mind D1’s conduct was one third. Compensation payable by D1 assessed at £120,000.
(3) Given the slight mitigating effect of the apology, damages against D1 should be set at £175,000.
(4) In general, conduct aggravating the libel for which a defendant who makes an offer of amends is liable is a factor in reducing his offer of amends “discount”.
(5) Where there are 2 defendants only one of which has made an offer of amends, there is still joint and several liability in respect of the overall liability, but subject to the statutory intervention set out in section 3(8) of the Defamation Act 1996. The court should therefore assess the right amount of compensation against a defendant who has made an offer of amends separately to the damages payable by any other defendant.
The amount of compensation awarded C in this case is more than double that previously awarded in any offer of amends case. The amount reflects the gravity of the libel and also the poor conduct of the defendants before and after publication and complaint. It should be noted that neither defendant chose to take part in the proceedings. The article was published without any prior investigation or verification. It stands as an example of how a Defendant can lose a substantial part of the discount for using the offer of amends procedure by his conduct.