Determining the meaning of a statement in defamation proceedings before the Supreme Court – Stocker v Stocker [2019] UKSC 17

The Supreme Court has heard a case on establishing the meaning of the statement “he tried to strangle me”. The case concerned and exchange between Mrs Stocker and an Ms Bligh (then Mr Stocker’s partner) on Facebook in which Mrs Stocker alleged that Mr Stocker tried to strangle her.

In this context, Mrs Stocker also alleged that Mr Stocker had been removed from the house following issuing threats against her, that there were some “gun issues” and that the police had determined he had breached a non-molestation order. Continue reading

Defamation

Defamation seeks to protect the individuals’ reputation from false statements which harm or may harm it. Slander and libel (more permanent forms of communication) refer to a statement publicized to a third party which has or is likely to cause serious harm to their reputation.

Defamation is a construct of the common law, built up over a series of legal cases. Defamation cases have been held to extend to social media, such as to tweets made by Katie Hopkins to food writer Jack Monroe.

Thornton v Telegraph Media Group Ltd [2011] EWHC 159 (QB) highlighted that defamation claims often cross the threshold to engage Article 8 privacy rights. In particular, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled that:

“In order for Article 8 to come into play, however, an attack on a person’s reputation must attain a certain level of seriousness and in a manner causing prejudice to personal enjoyment of the right to respect for private life…”

Claimants have to show the statement at issue is likely to cause serious harm to their reputation per s.1 Defamation Act 2013. This is typically via evidence such as circulation, subscribers and views of the statement at issue.

The defenses available to defamation are:

  1. Truth: That the statement itself was substantially true.
  2. Honest opinion: That the statement was one of opinion and that an honest person could have reasonably held that opinion.
  3. Public interest: That the matter was one which was in the public interest and the publisher of the statement reasonably believed it to be so.
  4. Privilege: This can be absolute (such as a Parliamentary statement) or qualified (e.g. job references). Qualified privilege does not protect the publisher of a statement where it was done so maliciously.

Citation: Article 8 and the “outside world”: privacy, reputation and employment – Hugh Tomlinson QC

An excellent and highly insightful piece written by Hugh Tomlinson QC on the application of the Article 8 right to privacy and a reconciliation with domestic law.

Inforrm's Blog

The Article 8 right to respect for private life has many facets and has often seemed in danger of uncontrolled expansion.  The Court of Human Rights has often noted that private life is “not susceptible to exhaustive definition”, embracing “multiple aspects of the person’s physical and social identity”. 

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Citation: INFORRM, Top 10 Defamation Cases of 2018: a selection – Suneet Sharma

A recent piece considering the most significant defamation cases over the previous year. Thanks goes to the INFORRM blog for their assistance.

Inforrm's Blog

Inforrm reported on a large number of defamation cases from around the world in 2018.  Following the widely read post on 2017 cases, this is my selection of the most legally and factually interesting cases from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, United States and England from the past year. 

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