Court of Appeal examines public interest defence and serious harm threshold in Defamation Act 2013


Re: Economou v De Freitas [2018] EWCA Civ 2591

The claimant appeals a dismissal of his libel claim, relating to a serious allegation of criminality. The Court dismissed the appeal. It was open to a defendant to challenge an inference of serious harm at the preliminary stage, following Lachaux, on evidence unrelated to the defamatory meaning of the words complained of. For the purposes of the public interest defence, the judge had been correct to conclude that the phrase “the statement complained of” in the Defamation Act 2013, s 4(1)(b),meant the reasonableness of the words complained of rather than any defamatory imputation they convey. As the judge recognised, in assessing whether a defendant’s belief is reasonable, there were limits to the latitude to be allowed for unintended or ambiguous meanings.

Ian Helme was involved in this case.