Permission granted to add data protection claim

Moroccan Prince partially successful in application for permission to amend libel claim against UK-based Arab news website

On 16 July 2015 Mr Justice Dingemans handed down his judgment on an application in the case of His Highness Prince Moulay Hicham Ben Abdullah Al Alaoui of Morocco v Elaph Publishing Limited. The Claimant had applied to amend his Claim Form and Particulars of Claim. The proposed amendments were a new defamatory meaning and the addition of a data protection claim to the existing libel claim in respect of an article published on the Defendant’s website on 8 and 9 October 2014.

Dingemans J refused the application to plead a new meaning on the basis that the new meaning was not capable of being defamatory of the Claimant.

However, he allowed the addition of a claim under sections 13 and 14 of the Data Protection Act 1998. The new claim was brought on the grounds that there had been unfair and unlawful processing of data because the story was inaccurate and infringed relevant data protection principles. Dingemans J referred to other cases, such as Law Society v Kordowski [2014] EMLR 2, where claims had been brought both in defamation and under the Data Protection Act. He held that it was arguable that the Prince, who resides in the UK, had “a principled interest in ensuring that there is an accurate record of his political activities in France relating to the Moroccan regime” and that such a claim would not, as had been suggested by the defendant, be an impermissible interference with freedom of expression.

In the wake of the ‘serious harm’ test now applicable to defamation claims the decision is a timely reminder that the Data Protection Act 1998 may provide meaningful redress for false statements, even in media cases.

5RB‘s Justin Rushbrooke QC and Richard Munden  (instructed by Lee & Thompson) appeared for the Claimant.

A 5RB case report can be found here.