Daily Telegraph apology for Melania Trump article not defamatory of author


Re: Burleigh v Telegraph Media Group Limited [2020] EWHC 2359 (QB)

The High Court has issued a preliminary ruling holding that an apology published by the Defendant in The Daily Telegraph was not defamatory of the Claimant.

The Claimant wrote an article about Mrs Melania Trump which was published by the Defendant in The Daily Telegraph in January 2019. Shortly after this, the Defendant published an apology in the same publication correcting what it called “false statements” from the article, stating that such information “should not have been published” and that, as a mark of its regret, it would “pay Mrs Trump substantial damages”.

The Claimant alleged that the phrasing of the apology, particularly in relation to the quoted extracts above, was such that it defamed her, even though the apology did not identify her as the original author of the article.

However, the High Court rejected the Claimant’s argument that the apology was defamatory, preferring the Defendant’s argument that the apology neither alleged nor implied culpable failure by the Claimant or that there was a want of skill on her part. Furthermore, the judge added that the ordinary reader would think that the corrections were trivial or insubstantial, and so not serious enough to compel the Defendant to pay substantial damages to Mrs Trump. Therefore, the judge decided the preliminary issues in the Defendant’s favour and was of the provisional view that the Defendant was entitled to judgment on the Claimant’s claim. The parties now have an opportunity to address the consequences of this ruling.

Ian Helme was involved in this case.