There is news today in relation to three appeals in libel cases.  First, the Court of Appeal (Pill and Elias LJJ and Sharp J) handed down judgment in the case of Ashcroft v Foley ([2012] EWCA Civ 423).  This arises in a libel action against the “Independent”. The Court of Appeal unanimously dismissed the defendants’ appeals against orders of Eady J striking out defences of justification and fair comment and subsequently refusing permission to amend. 

The issue was whether the pleadings were sufficiently clear and particularised to enable the claimant to know precisely how the defendants were putting their case on justification and fair comment. The judge held that they were not and the Court of Appeal were of the view that his conclusion was fully justified.

Second, it appears that the “Times” has applied to the Supreme Court for permission to withdraw the second part of its appeal in Flood v Times Newspapers ([2012] UKSC 11).  The issue was whether the published article was still protected by Reynolds privilege after the “Times” has been informed that the claimant had been cleared of the allegations made against him.  Tugendhat J held that the privilege was lost and the Court of Appeal agreed (see [107]).  There was insufficient time to deal with this issue at the hearing before the Supreme Court and it was re-listed for further submissions on 23 April 2012.

It has now been reported that a spokesman at the Supreme Court said the newspaper had written expressing its wish to withdraw from the second limb of the appeal.  The court had not yet received any indication about whether Mr Flood and his legal team were prepared to agree to that, which meant that the court could not make a decision on whether to withdraw the case.  There is a report on the 5RB website.

Finally, on 3 April 2012, the Court of Appeal (Maurice Kay and Hooper LJJ and Henderson J) dismissed the appeal by the defendant in the case of Bento v Chief Constable of Bedfordshire.  The defendant was seeking to overturn an order by Tugendhat J for trial by judge alone. Permission to appeal had been refused on paper by Sir Richard Buxton on 6 March 2012 but granted by Moore-Bick LJ at an oral hearing on 26 March 2012.

The trial will now begin (before Bean J) on 23 April 2012.   The claimant contends that a police press release alleged that he was guilty of murder and the defendant relies on defences of qualified privilege and justification.  In relation to the second of these the defendant will seek to prove that the claimant was, indeed, guilty of murder or manslaughter.  Some background to the case can be found in this BBC News report from February 2012.