Permission to appeal on Defamation Act 2013

Decision on serious harm test to be considered by Court of Appeal

Permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal was granted at a hearing today before Bean J in Cooke v MGN [2014] EWHC 2831 (QB). In his written judgment, handed down in August, Bean J had held that an article published in the Sunday Mirror in January 2014 did not meet the serious harm test in section 1(1) of the new Act (see 5RB case report here).

5RB’s Adrienne Page QC, who represented the Claimants at today’s hearing, argued that the judgment, if correct, demonstrates the potentially far-reaching consequences of section 1 including the overturning of centuries-old common law principles.

The Judge, in granting permission to Midland Heart Limited and its chief executive, Ruth Cooke, expressed no view on the prospects of success of any appeal. He said that permission was being granted because this was the first case to have come to a hearing on the proper interpretation of section 1 of the Defamation Act 2013.

At today’s hearing, the Judge also clarified one aspect of his written judgment, explaining that he had made no finding and had intended to express no view as to whether the natural and ordinary meanings he found the words to bear, as set out in paragraph 19 of his judgment, would have been defamatory under the common law as it applied prior to 1 January 2014.

Bean J awarded the Claimants their costs up to and including the publication of an apology by the Defendants, saying that it was “entirely reasonable in the present case for the Claimants to consult lawyers and for them to write as they did and to expect the prompt publication of an apology and the payment of such costs as were reasonably incurred in attaining that apology”. He awarded the Defendants their costs from that point onwards.

UPDATE 22 October 2014: The Claimants in this case have said they no longer wish to pursue the appeal. For further information see 5RB news report here.