Newspaper articles do not link allegations against a claimant and historic council failings: summary judgment entered


Re: Carruthers v Associated Newspapers Ltd [2019] EWHC 33 (QB)

The court held a preliminary hearing in a matter involving claims for libel, misuse of private information and alleged breaches of the Data Protection Act 1998. This arose from publications by the defendants about the claimant who was, at the time of publication, Deputy Assistant Director of Children’s Safeguarding and Head of Services for Children In Need of Support and Protection at Haringey Council. She contended that, as a result of the publications, she was suspended and subsequently resigned.

The court firstly considered meaning and fact/opinion. It concluded that the hypothetical ordinary reasonable reader, having read the whole of the relevant article, would appreciate the two strands of the articles in relation to the allegations against the claimant and the historic failings of the Council in the cases of Victoria Climbie and Baby P. Therefore the reader could not conclude that the claimant was in any way connected with the cases, other than the fact that she worked for the Council.

Secondly, ruling for the defendants, the court entered summary judgment in relation to the claims for defamation, stating that the claimant had no real prospect of success in defeating the defence of honest opinion. This is because the court concluded that the facts admitted by the claimant in her witness statement were sufficient to allow the hypothetical honest person to express the opinions in the articles based upon those admitted facts.

Catrin Evans QC was involved in this case.