Court does not permit damages claim as ‘serious harm’ from defamation could not be proved


Re: Cooke & Anor v MGN Ltd & Anor [2014] EWHC 2831 (QB)

The claimants sought damages for defamation. In this preliminary hearing the Court decided two issues: what was the meaning of the words complained of, and whether they caused ‘serious harm’ to the reputation of the claimants.

The Court set out its understanding of the words at paragraphs [21-22] of the judgment. The Court noted that since the enactment of the Defamation Act 2013, s 1(1) the threshold test had changed from ‘substantial harm’ to ‘serious harm’. The Court stated that the new test was set at a higher threshold, but was unclear as to how much higher. The Court also noted that an apology, like the one issued by the defendant in this case, lessened the harm caused. Therefore, on the facts of this case, the claimants could not show they suffered serious harm.

Hugh Tomlinson QC was involved in this case.