The Supreme Court today handed down its long awaited judgment in the case of Lachaux v Independent Print ([2019] UKSC 27).  The appeal was dismissed on the facts but the Court overturned the Court of Appeal’s interpretation of the “serious harm” test in s.1(1) of the Defamation Act 2013, preferring the analysis of Warby J at first instance.

In a judgment delivered by Lord Sumption, the Supreme Court unanimously held that section 1 not only raises the threshold of seriousness from that in Jameel and Thornton, but requires its application to be determined by reference to the actual facts about its impact not merely the meaning of the words [12].

The Supreme Court held that the Court of Appeal’s analysis gave little or no effect to the language of section 1 and was internally contradictory [20]

On the facts, the Supreme Court largely adopted Warby J’s legal approach . It found no error in his “serious harm” finding [20].  The finding was properly based on. a combination of the meaning of the words, Mr Lachaux’s situation, the circumstances of publication and the inherent probabilities.

Finally, the Court held that the defendant’s arguments based on the “repetition rule”, the effect of the rule in Dingle v Associated Newspapers had been rightly dismissed by the Judge and the Court of Appeal [22] to [25].

The Supreme Court has provided a Press Summary

We had case comments on the decision of Warby J and the Court of Appeal and will publish a comment on the Supreme Court decision shortly.