In the case of Alsaifi v Newcastle College Group and Board of Governors ( EWHC 1954 (QB)) a lecturer who was banned from teaching then won an appeal overturning that decision has succeeded with an appeal against a Master’s decision to dismiss his defamation claim against the college at which he once worked.
IT and mathematics lecturer Tariq Alsaifi had appealed against the decision of Master Victoria McCloud to dismiss his claim against Newcastle College Group and its Board of Directors, and award it summary judgment.
He had sued over statements made by the College principle and reported by the Newcastle Chronicle after he was banned from teaching and found to have made sexual advances to a teenaged girl apprentice who was studying at the College part-time.
Mr Alsaifi subsequently appealed against the ban, which was overturned on the grounds that the National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) had no jurisdiction to deal with the complaint against him or issue a banning order.
He then sought to sue Trinity Mirror, publisher of the Newcastle Chronicle, over its reports of the case, but his claims were dismissed on the grounds that the coverage was protected by qualified privilege.
Newcastle College Group then applied for his claim to be dismissed and for summary judgment, applications which Master McCloud granted on the grounds that the case amounted to a Jameel abuse of process.
But Mr Justice Nicklin allowed Mr Alsaifi’s appeal against that decision.
He was, he said, satisfied that Mr Alsaifi could identify something tangible or of value for which it was worth fighting – vindication of his reputation and his stance that he had never misconducted himself in relation to the student.
The lecturer was now unable to challenge the truth or falsity of the allegations against him by any other route, said Mr Justice Nicklin.
If, as it had indicated, the College relied on a defence of truth, the case could resolve with a determination of whether the allegations made against Mr Alsaifi were proved true.
Everything would depend upon how the litigation went, but if Mr Alsaifi were to win against a plea of truth, there could be “several tangible benefits”.
First, he would have a judgment which he could use on any occasion in the future when he was confronted with the original allegations, perhaps, as he had suggested, when applying for a job.
Second, the case might well be reported in media local to his area, potentially counteracting the earlier publicity which he considers had been damaging to his reputation.
Finally, Trinity Miror might, in the light of a judgment in Mr Alsaifi’s favour, make an editorial decision to remove the article which it was still publishing online.
“If it did not, the claimant might be able to pursue other avenues of redress against that refusal, eg redress under data protection laws or a complaint to Ipso, the newspaper’s regulator,” the judge said.
“I make no comment about the viability of these options, but it cannot be said that these are fanciful or are unavailable in the event of a defence of truth being rejected after trial.”
Mr Justice Nicklin added:
“Based on this assessment, I am satisfied, at this stage, that there is something of real value to the claimant that could be achieved by these proceedings. In my judgment, it certainly cannot be said that this claim is obviously pointless.”
This report originally appeared on the online subscription service Media Lawyer and is reproduced with permission and thanks.