Reynolds test and presumption of damage to be reviewed
The House of Lords (Lords Bingham, Steyn & Rodger) has given permission to appeal to the Wall Street Journal Europe in the case of Jameel & Anor v Wall Street Journal Europe Sprl.
Permission has been granted on two grounds: (1) the scope of the “responsible journalism” test in Reynolds defences, and (2) presumption of damage in defamation claims and whether this is compatible with Article 10 of the European Convention.
Their Lordships refused permission on a further ground of appeal, namely whether the jury should have been required to specify the precise defamatory meaning of the article.
The original article sued on appeared in the Wall Street Journal Europe and suggested that the Saudi Arabian monetary authorities were monitoring, at the US government’s request, certain bank accounts in connection with the actual or potential funding of terrorism.
The Abdul Latif Jameel Group was named as being on the list of such accounts. The main company in the Group and its President (Mohammed Jameel) sued for libel.
The original libel action was tried in December 2003 before Mr Justice Eady. The judge rejected the defence of qualified privilege and the jury awarded total damages of £40,000. The Wall Street Journal’s appeal against the judgment and award of damages was dismissed in February this year.