Over seven years on since the first publication of the offending articles in The Independent, i and the Evening Standard, Bruno Lachaux has won his long-running claim for libel against the newspapers’ publishers. He has been awarded a total of £120,000 in damages.
In a judgment handed down today, Mr Justice Nicklin ruled that the newspapers’ defence of publication on a matter of public interest under s.4 of the Defamation Act 2013 should not be upheld.
Both newspapers satisfied the requirement that their respective articles must be on a matter of public interest, but failed on subsequent stages of the public interest test. The Independent and i failed to prove that the relevant editor believed that publication of their articles was in the public interest. The Evening Standard satisfied the belief requirement, but this belief was held not to be reasonable in all the circumstances. Given the gravity of the allegations made against Mr Lachaux, the judge was critical of the “superficial and inadequate” efforts to investigate and the absence of any approach to Mr Lachaux for comment.
Mr Justice Nicklin awarded the claimant £50,000 in damages against Independent Print Ltd (£11,500 in respect of online and print publication of the article in The Independent and £38,500 in respect of publication in the i) and £70,000 against Evening Standard Ltd. He also granted an injunction and made an order under s.12 of the Defamation Act 2013 that the Defendants publish a summary of the court’s judgment.
This judgment on liability comes at the end of a long road. As is well known in media law circles, the case went to the Court of Appeal in 2017 and to the Supreme Court in 2019 on the issue of serious harm to reputation under s.1 of the Defamation Act 2013. The trial on liability was heard by Mr Justice Nicklin in late February to early March this year, when judgment was reserved until today.
A link to the full judgment can be found here. A 5RB case report will follow shortly.