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Serious harm in the Supreme Court

Written by Samuel O'Toole on 06 April 2018

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Independent Print Ltd, the unsuccessful defendant in the case of Lachaux v Independent Print Ltd [2017] EWCA Civ 1327 has been granted permission to appeal the Court of Appeal’s decision and subsequent application of Section 1(1) of the Defamation Act 2013 (the Act).

Section 1(1) of the Act provides that:

“A statement is not defamatory unless its publication has caused or is likely to cause serious harm to the reputation of the claimant.”

The Court of Appeal’s decision in the Lachaux v Independent Print Ltd case raised the threshold of the ‘serious harm’ test. It required that at an absolute minimum the statement be so seriously defamatory that serious reputational harm could be inferred.

What the case means is that the complained of publication must have caused such serious harm to the claimant’s reputation, or is likely to do so in the future. In layman’s terms the presumption of damage in claims of defamation has been removed.

What the appeal means is that the debate of the Act representing a change in defamation law, or on the other hand that, the Act represents simple arrangement of the law is reignited.  

Once the appeal is heard, the answer to the debate will be clear.

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