The decision in Butt v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWHC 2619 (QB) clarifies the application of the statutory defence of honest opinion under section 3 of the Defamation Act 2013. In doing so the case also confirms the application of the defence to statements made by Government bodies and the interdependence of the defence upon findings of meaning.
The long-awaited decision in Lachaux v Independent Print Ltd  EWCA Civ 1334 has brought some badly-needed clarity and certainty to the law of libel, and it seems fair to say that reports of the death of the libel writ have been greatly exaggerated. The decision interprets both the meaning of section 1(1) of the Defamation Act 2013 – “the serious harm” test – and determines the point at which a claim for libel crystallises.
In Singh v Weayou  EWHC 2102 (QB), the Claimant Keith Singh, a Night Services Coordinator at the Priory Hospital in Roehampton, sued the Defendant Joseph Weayou, a Health Care Assistant at the same hospital, for libel and malicious falsehood in respect of an email Mr Weayou had sent on 24 August 2015 to the HR Manager and a senior manager at the hospital. In the email, Mr Weayou made a number of allegations, including, most seriously, that Mr Singh had sexually assaulted him.
The Ministry of Justice has published annual statistics which further suggest that London’s reputation as the ‘libel capital of the world’ might be undeserved. The 2016 figures show that only 112 claims were issued in the Royal Courts of Justice (RCJ) in London (all defamation claims must be issued in the High Court; the vast majority of these are issued in the RCJ). This is the lowest number recorded over three decades-worth of record-keeping.
The food blogger, journalist and left-wing political activist Jack Monroe has been awarded £24,000 in damages by the High Court following two tweets sent by the MailOnline (and former Sun)columnist Katie Hopkins in May 2015.
In Alvaro Sobrinho v Impressa Publishing SA  EWHC 66 (QB) the High Court held that an article written in a Portuguese publication about allegedly illegal activity carried out by a banker did not satisfy the ‘serious harm’ test as set out in section 1(1) of the Defamation Act 2013. The Court also held that the claim was an abuse of process.
In Lachaux v Independent Print ( EWHC 2242 (QB) the High Court sought to clarify the meaning of section 1 of the Defamation Act 2013: the requirement for defamation claimants to show that a publication has caused serious harm to reputation or is likely to cause serious harm to reputation.
Following the implementation of the Defamation Act 2013, defamation claimants must demonstrate that the publication in question caused or is likely to cause ‘serious harm’ to their reputation. Since the enactment, there has been significant speculation as to what measure of harm will suffice and to what extent this changes the very definition of ‘defamatory’. In the recent case of Cooke and Midland Heart Ltd v MNG Ltd  EWHC 2831 (QB), Mr Justice Bean gave the first judicial interpretation of the issue.
The Defamation Act 2013 came into force on 1 January 2014. This article is a short introduction to the various provisions of the Act. Is it not a comprehensive guide to the law of libel (which is not limited to this Act) and not intended as a substitute for legal advice.