Hamlins’ media team wins landmark ‘responsible journalism’ trial against The Mail on Sunday

You might be interested to learn of the outcome in respect of a Trial in relation to a ground-breaking claim against The Mail on Sunday, which sets a precedent for responsible journalism. Judgment was given at the High Court in favour of our client, Irfan Qadir, following trial of his libel action in July in respect of the Trial of privilege and malice defences. Our media team represented the Claimant.

Associated Newspapers, publishers of The Mail on Sunday, published two defamatory articles about our client last year. They were purportedly reports of civil proceedings and a court hearing, respectively, involving Mr Qadir, who is a businessman and at the time, a director of the Bank of Scotland. But the first story failed to report that Mr Qadir had stated an intention to defend the civil case against him, as well as falsely stating he had “declined to comment”. The second story failed to report that allegations about our client made in a separate court hearing was rejected by the Judge in that case.

Mr Justice Tugendhat QC, who heard the libel trial, found that the newspaper had acted irresponsibly and could not rely on ‘privilege’ defences which can otherwise give great protection to the media in its reporting of civil litigation and court hearings. He held that the defence failed in respect of the first article because it was not for the public benefit that the story omitted to state that the claim was disputed. The second article could not be protected because the Judge found that it was not a fair and accurate report of the Court hearing. He stated that the report was deliberately unfair. Judgment was entered in favour of our client on all aspects of privilege and malice, with an Order for payment by the newspaper group of Mr Qadir’s legal costs.

The Judge stated in his ruling:

“Unfortunately the press are as susceptible as any other institution to the failing of not admitting they have done wrong. Associated Newspapers has exhibited this failing in this case…And there is particular mischief in this institutional failing in the case of the press . .. So the press may get away with refusing to admit they have done wrong, when others would not get away with. Those whose reputations have been wrongly damaged in such circumstances are left with the daunting prospect of suing for libel, as Mr Qadir has in this case. And the public interest is damaged by misinformation… ”

Today’s Judgment will have ramifications for the wider media in the reporting of hearings and disputes. The Mail on Sunday have already indicated that they intend to appeal the decision, although Tugendhat J refused permission. We also represent a number of publishers and websites: it is important always to consider whether a story reflects both sides of any dispute or contains balancing comments made to counter allegations.

Chris and Callum instructed William Bennett of 5RB in acting for the Claimant; Taylor Wessing LLP for the Defendant instructed Mark Warby QC and Adam Speker.

A full summary of the decision is available on The International Forum for Responsible Media Blog.

Contact

Chris Hutchings
0207 355 6104
chutchings@hamlins.co.uk