Supreme Court liberalises fair comment

First defamation decision relaxes requirements of defence; renames as 'honest comment'

The Supreme Court has today handed down judgment in Spiller & Anor v Joseph & Ors [2010] UKSC 53, the first case in which it has considered the law of defamation.

The issue which came before it was whether, in order for a fair comment defence to succeed, a defendant has to satisfy the condition that “the comment must explicitly or implicitly indicate, at least in general terms, the facts on which the comment is based. The reader or hearer should be in a position to judge for himself how far the comment was well founded.” The Supreme Court has relaxed the requirements of the defence by ruling that the underlined part of the test no longer applies. It has also held that the defence ought to be called ‘honest comment’.

A full 5RB case report and a copy of the judgment is available here.

5RB’s William Bennett (instructed by Pattinson & Brewer) is acting for the Claimants.