Analyse and Assess the Pros and Cons of the Libel Defences of Justification and Fair Comment

1628 Words Oct 14th, 2012 7 Pages
Analyse and assess the pros and cons of the libel defences of justification and fair comment with reference to a minimum of three case studies

Libel law in England is incredibly tough, so much so, that if found to be liable of a

defamatory statement, ‘a statement which lowers someone in the eyes of reasonable

people...’ [Quinn 2009: 210] the consequences can be very costly to both the

journalist themselves and their newspapers and therefore it is very important for the

defences of defamation to be used to full effect an example of this is libel tourism

and the case of involving Roman Polanski 2005. The magazine had said that the

event had take place before the claimant’s wife’s funeral, but it had in fact taken
…show more content…
Kate Moss

sued channel 5, but during proceedings she was captured in pictures taking cocaine.

Due to such evidence, Moss chose to drop her claim.

A final disadvantage to any defendant involves the likely case where, the defendant

uses the defence of justification and is unsuccessful. In such a case ‘an unsuccessful

defence of justification is likely to increase the level of any damages awarded.’ [2] In

the case of Archer v News of the World (1987) the newspaper was successfully sued

by archer after claims were made by the paper which they could not prove, this in

turn resulted in a payout to Mr Archer of £500,000 damages. It was later discovered

that the claims made about Archer were true and he was consequently imprisoned

for perjury. This case is a clear example of a situation where the jury are start struck

and are therefore biased in favour of the claimant.

The defence of fair comment applies to cases where the defendant has been

accused of publishing a defamatory comment or opinion. For the defence to apply,

the defendant must prove that, the words complained of were a comment or

opinion, not a statement of fact, the words were about a matter of public interest,

any facts which the comment was based on are true, or subject to privilege and that

the comment was made without malice and so was an honest belief of the


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