Lewison, McCombe and Haddon-Cave LJJ overturned the judgment of Jay J in Serafin v Malkiewicz and found the trial had been rendered unfair by the conduct of the Judge.
Jan Serafin had complained in libel about a defamatory article published by the Defendants in a Polish-language magazine, which made allegations against him about his charitable work and his business activities. At trial, Jay J found that the Defendants had a public interest defence and, in respect of some of the allegations, a truth defence. Mr Serafin appealed.
The Court of Appeal found that the Judge had been wrong to find a defence of public interest as the allegations were not on a matter of public interest, nor was there reasonable belief that they were. It was also found that the Judge was not entitled to find one of the allegations was true, and was wrong to find that had the public interest defence not succeeded damages should not be awarded. Unusually, the Court of Appeal found that the trial itself was unfair, with the judge at first instance displaying hostility to Mr Serafin and failing to maintain neutrality.
The appeal provides guidance on public interest under section 4 of the Defamation Act 2013, and is only the second Court of Appeal authority on this statutory defence.
The 5RB case report can be read here and includes a link to the judgment.
5RB’s Alexandra Marzec (instructed by Simon Burn Solicitors) represented the successful Appellant.