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Injunction restraining publication discharged, where tort of inflicting intentional mental shock was concerned

Rhodes v OPO (by his litigation friend BHM) & Anor [2015] UKSC 32

Related Member(s):
Edward Craven, Sara Mansoori, Hugh Tomlinson QC, Antony White QC
Related Practice Area(s):
Media and Information Law

Appeal against an interim injunction banning the publication of an autobiography detailing the sexual abuse suffered by the appellant when he was a child. The claim had been brought on behalf of his son, OPO, on the ground that the publication would intentionally cause him psychological harm. OPO had been diagnosed by one psychologist as suffering from Asperger’s syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity order, dyspraxia and dysgraphia. The issue before the Court was whether the publication should not be allowed pending trial based on the tort in Wilkinson v Downton [1897] QB 57 (intentional infliction of mental shock).

The Court unanimously allowed the appeal. The burden was on the claimant to prove there was no justification or reasonable excuse for publication, and the Court held there was every justification for the publication. There was no general law prohibiting the publication of facts which would distress another person. It was hard to envisage any case where words that were not deceptive, threatening or (possibly) abusive could be actionable under the tort. In addition, the mental element of the tort was not met as there was no evidence that the appellant intended to cause psychiatric harm or severe mental or emotional distress to OPO, and there was no justification for imputing an intention to cause harm on the basis of harm being foreseeable.

Eddie Craven, Sara Mansoori, Hugh Tomlinson QC and Antony White QC were involved in this case.