Winslet v Associated Newspapers Ltd
Reference:  EWHC 2735 (QB);  EMLR 11
Court: Queen's Bench Division
Judge: Eady J
Date of judgment: 3 Nov 2009
Summary: Defamation - Libel - Offer of Amends - ss.2-4 Defamation Act 1996- Statement in open court - Unilateral statement in open court after offer of amends - CPR 53PD para 6.1
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David Sherborne (Claimant)
Instructing Solicitors: Schillings for the C; Foot Anstey for D.
C, an actress, brought proceedings against D, the proprietors of the Daily Mail over an article that alleged that C had publicly lied about her exercise regime. Proceedings were issued and D made an unqualified offer of amends. C accepted the offer, and compensation of £25k was agreed. C made it clear throughout that she would apply for a unilateral statement in open court if the apology was insufficient. The terms of the apology were not agreed and C applied for permission to make a statement. D argued that C was not entitled to a statement since the offer of amends regime was self-contained and the only remedies to which she was entitled were those available under the provisions of ss2-4 of the Defamation Act 1996, which did not include a unilateral statement.
Whether the Court had jurisdiction to permit a unilateral statement in open court to be read under CPR Part 53 Practice Direction paragraph 6.1 in circumstances where the action has settled following the acceptance of an offer of amends under s3 of the Defamation Act 1998.
Giving permission for the statement in open court to be read,
(1) There was jurisdiction under paragraph 6.1, which states simply that an application to read a unilateral statement may be made ‘where a party wishes to accept a Part 36 offer or other offer of settlement in relation to a claim for… libel.’
(2) The statement in open court had long been recognised as a natural incident of settlement (see Barnet v Crozier) and it would be artificial to consider it as representing a ‘continuation of defamation proceedings’, as defined in s3(2) of the Act. There was no good reason to make an exception to the broad wording of this paragraph of the Practice Direction. Furthermore, there was no injustice to D in permitting C on the facts to make a unilateral statement in order to draw the settlement to the attention of readers given the obscure and modest nature of D’s apology as compared to the original libel.
Unilateral statements will appeal to litigants primarily seeking public vindication in place of a contest over appropriate compensation. In circumstances where an offer is accepted, but the apology published by D is deemed insufficient, C can apply to the Court to publicise the victory in the form of an appropriate unilateral statement, which would otherwise only be reflected in additional compensation, in the (often unlikely) event C was prepared to risk an assessment hearing.