Defamation claim struck out under due to one-year limitation period under the Limitation Act 1980


Re: Reed Elsevier UK Ltd (t/a LexisNexis) & Anor v Bewry [2014] EWCA Civ 1411

In Oct 2010 the first defendant published on the LexisNexis website a case note of a judicial review claim in which the claimant had successfully challenged a decision to remove two foster children from his care. The same case note was also subsequently published on the Community Care Inform website by the second defendant. In the claim, which was not issued until Feb 2013 (the claimant having learnt of the publication in Feb 2012) it was alleged that the meaning of the case note was that the claimant was a paedophile.

The defendants applied to strike out the claim on the ground of Jameel abuse and the claimant cross-applied under the Limitation Act 1980, s 32a to disapply the one-year limitation period for defamation claims provided for by section the Limitation Act 1980, s 4a. At first instance the claimant’s application was granted and the defendants’ refused: [2013] EWHC 3182 (QB).

The Court allowed the defendants’ appeal. It held that there had been serious delay which had not been adequately explained by the claimant. The judge had wrongly failed to take into account the claimant’s further delay in bringing his application to extend time, after the issue of proceedings. In exercising afresh the discretion under the Limitation Act 1980, s 32a it was equitable for the claimant’s application to be refused. Since there had been minimal publication during the limitation period, the claim fell to be struck out as an abuse.

Antony White QC and Ben Silverstone were involved in this case.