On appeal from: [2017] EWCA Civ 1334

This appeal considered the proper interpretation of the ‘serious harm’ test in the Defamation Act 2013, s 1(1). This was in reference to the circumstances in which serious harm can be inferred in the absence of evidence of harm; the applicability of the common law repetition rule and the rule in Associated Newspapers Ltd v Dingle [1964] AC 371 excluding the admissibility of publications to similar effect.

The Supreme Court unanimously dismissed the appeal.

The Court held that s 1 of the 2013 Act not only raised the threshold of seriousness from that in the previous cases of Jameel and Thornton, but required its application to be determined by reference to the actual facts about its impact, not merely the meaning of the words. This is because the 2013 Act undoubtedly amended the common law to some degree, making the extent of damage part of the test for a defamatory statement.

The Supreme Court dismissed the defendant’s appeal on the facts, holding that the serious harm test was met in this case.

For judgment, please download: [2019] UKSC 27
For Court’s Press Summary, please download: Court’s Press Summary
For a non-PDF version of the judgment, please visit: BAILII

To watch the hearing, please visit: Supreme Court Website (13 Nov 2018 morning session) (13 Nov 2018 afternoon session) (14 Nov 2018 morning session)