Public authority loses privilege appeal

Court of Appeal give judgment in Clift v Slough Borough Council

The Court of Appeal today handed down judgment in Clift v Slough Borough Council, finding in favour of the Claimant and against the Appellant Council. The appeal concerned the relationship between the qualified privilege defence in libel and the public law duties of public authorities, in particular the duty imposed by section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998 to act compatibly with Convention Rights.

In a significant decision for all public authorities, it was held that a public authority should only be entitled to rely on the defence of qualified privilege  in respect of a defamatory publication if it the publication was consistent with its public law duties. A public authority should only publish information for the purpose of and to the extent necessary for performance of its public duty and in accordance with its obligations under the HRA. In order to claim qualified privilege, the publication must be necessary for a legitimate aim and proportionate to that aim.

A full 5RB case report is available here.

5RB’s Christina Michalos (instructed by Simons Muirhead & Burton) was junior counsel for the Respondent.