Court: Queen's Bench Division
Judge: Drake J and a jury
Date of judgment: 30 Oct 1992
Summary: Sport - libel - television broadcast - boxer accusing manager of impropriety - justification - consent - whether one joint publisher could rely on consent given to another
Instructing Solicitors: Henri Brandman & Co
M was a champion boxer who had been managed by W. M was driven into retirement when diagnosed with epilepsy. Interviewed on LWT about his continuing to fight after the initial diagnosis M claimed that “everyone who needed to know” had been aware of the diagnosis. W sued M for libel in respect of the broadcast, alleging that the words meant W had compelled M to agree to fight, knowing of the epilepsy diagnosis. M’s initial defence was one of justification. Shortly before the trial date M discovered that before broadcast LWT had told W they would not televise M’s claims unless W consented. LWT said W had consented. M added a defence of consent. These 2 defences were put before the jury at the eventual trial (postponed to await the outcome of M’s criminal trial on charges of attempting to murder W).
(1) Were the words defamatory? If so (2) Were the words true? (3) Had W consented to the publication complained of, and if so was this a good defence to the claim?
Dismissing the claim:- (By the judge) If W agreed to the broadcast being made, his consent was a defence to the claim even if, as he claimed, he had intended to reserve his rights against M and said so to LWT. (By the jury) (1) The words were defamatory. (2) no verdict on whether the words were true (the jury split 6-6) (3) W had consented to the broadcast.
The issue of whether A’s consent to B publishing the defamatory statements of C gives C a valid defence to a libel claim had not previously been tested. The judge upheld the defence submission that the essential issue was whether W had consented to the damage caused; if so, he could not complain of it against any party to the act of publication.