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Court: High Court

High Court determines meaning of articles in MP’s libel claim

Elphicke MP v Times Newspapers Ltd [2019] EWHC 3563 (QB)

This trial determined the preliminary issue of meaning of three articles published in April 2018 under the headlines: ‘Police Quiz Tory MP Charlie Elphicke after two women allege sex crimes’, ‘Police Failed to tell Tory MP Charlie Elphicke about rape claim: Female aide made allegations five months ago’ and ‘A Tory MP is accused of rape and no one stirs: Police delays [and secrecy] are adding to the distress of both parties.’ The claimant is claiming that all three articles were a misuse of private information. He claims that the second and third articles libellous of him.

Held: The meaning of the articles were taken as a whole to mean that there were reasonable grounds to suspect that the Claimant was guilty of rape. The ordinary reader would not understand these articles to make an allegation that the Claimant was guilty of rape. The references in the articles to the complainant’s ‘claims’ and ‘allegations’ to having been raped, do not necessarily protect the Defendant against a Chase level 1 meaning as the repetition rule makes clear, but, at the same time, the use of these words is part of the factual matrix from which the reader will take away the ordinary meanings of the articles.

IRA participant liable for damages in Hyde Park bombing

Young v Downey [2019] EWHC 3508 (QB)

This claim arises from the bomb attack in Hyde Park on 20 July 1982, for which the Irish Republican Army (the IRA) claimed responsibility. The bomb, concealed in a car boot, was detonated as members of the Household Cavalry rode past on their regular route from the Knightsbridge Barracks to Horse Guards for the Changing of the Guard. The bomb killed four soldiers and injured 31 others.  

The claim is brought on behalf of one of the deceased’s daughters, where she seeks damages for her own psychiatric harm and consequential loss and under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976. Further, she seeks aggravated and exemplary damages.

Held: The defendant was an active participant in the Hyde Park bombing which caused the death of the claimant’s father and the other soldiers. The defendant’s participation was part of a concerted plan aimed at killing or at least doing really serious harm to members of the Household Cavalry. As such, the claimant has established that the defendant is responsible as a joint tortfeasor for the unlawful killing of her father and she is therefore entitled to recover damages from him. The extent of those damages will be determined later.

High Court makes preliminary ruling in Carole Cadwalladr libel case

Banks v Cadawalladr [2019] EWHC 3451 (QB)

This case discusses the preliminary issue as to meaning in a defamation claim brought by the Claimant in respect of four publications. The Claimant is a British businessman who is a prominent figure in the campaign for the United Kingdom to leave the EU. The Defendant is an author, investigative journalist and features writer. The four publications where meaning is to be determined include two public talks and two tweets.

The judge held the following meanings:

the Ted Talk and the First Tweet meant: On more than one occasion Mr. Banks told untruths about a secret relationship he had with the Russian Government in relation to acceptance of foreign funding of electoral campaigns in breach of the law on such funding;

The Convention Speech meant: Mr. Banks had been offered money by the Russians and that there were substantial grounds to investigate whether he would be willing to accept such funds in violation of prohibitions on foreign electoral funding;
The Second Tweet meant: There is a proper basis to investigate whether Mr. Banks’ contact with Russia involved any criminal conduct just as the Italian government is investigating Lega’s contact with the Russians.

Not for court to rule on whether Parliament should include Sikh ethnic group’ tick box on Census

R (Gill on behalf of the Sikh Federation) v The Cabinet Office [2019] EWHC 3407 (Admin)

The Sikh Federation has campaigned for the inclusion of a Sikh ethnic group tick box response in the census, in the hope that funding and public services will then be more effectively focused on meeting the needs of the Sikh community.  In this case, they applied for judicial review of “the contemplated exercise of Her Majesty’s discretion to direct a census based on an Order in Council, which does not include a Sikh ethnic tick box”.

Held: The claim is dismissed on the ground that it is premature, and in breach of parliamentary privilege and the constitutional convention of the separation of powers. If the Court were to rule that it would be unlawful for Her Majesty to not include a Sikh ethnic tick box, it would be a clear interference with the Queen in Council’s law-making function, contrary to the constitutional convention of the separation of powers. 

There is a fundamental constitutional distinction between the Court reviewing the lawfulness of an Order in Council once it has been made, and the Court making a declaration which curtails the Queen in Council’s exercise of discretion when making law. This is not an exceptional case which justifies any departure from the general rule that this Court will respect the separation of powers and so not interfere with Parliamentary proceedings.

Home Office’s approach to victims of trafficking found to be unlawful

JP and BS v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2019] EWHC 3346 (Admin)

In this case the High Court decided that the Home Office’s approach to protecting victims of trafficking is unlawful.

The test case was brought by two victims of trafficking, who challenged the lawfulness of the Secretary of State’s policy that, in the case of a victim of trafficking who is also making an application for asylum, the Secretary of State will not determine the victim’s application for a residence permit under Article 14(1) of ECAT before making a decision on the asylum application.

The court held that the Defendant breached the rights the claimants under Article 14 (read with Articles 4, 8 and A1P1) of the ECHR, contrary Human Rights Act 1998, s6.