Defamation – Part 2 – The Case Law

The concept and ideas around defamation are explored in Part 1 of this article.

Part 2 looks at cases involving defamation and the principles behind this.

The first case was between Stocker v Stocker [2018]. The appeal for this case concerned Nicola Stocker and Ronald Stocker following their marital end. Mr Stocker started a new relationship with Ms Bligh. The case of defamation was noted between Mrs Stocker and Ms Bligh on a social media platform (facebook). Mrs Stocker had mentioned to Ms Bligh that Mr Stocker had previously “tried to strangle” her as well as saying that Mr Stocker had previously been known to have had to be removed from home due to violence and gun related issues. This conversation between the two parties was regarded as a violation of the non-molestation order. A defamation proceeding was thereby brought against Mrs Stocker as the interpretation of the term “strangled her” was misinterpreted to mean in an attempt to kill her as opposed to grasping her neck.

Mr Mitting wrongly referred, in this case, to the Oxford English Dictionary in an attempt to define the meaning. However, this meant that the case was discussed on the grounds that the use of a dictionary does not form part of the process in determining a natural and ordinary meaning of a word/term.
The principle behind this case is that there needs to be strong consideration to what is posted on social media. It could be said that the courts need to consider the term and not dismiss a defamation case if a judge refers to the English dictionary. The concept of morality plays into cases such as that of Stocker v Stocker. The court could have considered the evidence that Mr Stocker did not deny that he strangled and only insisted that he did not do this, with an intention to kill. It could be said, therefore, that this case of defamation should have failed on these grounds.

Cases such as this are important in highlighting the implications concerning court defamation. The following cases reiterate this issue.
The need for solid proof when filing a defamation claim was continued in the case of: Al Amoudi v Brisard and another [2006] EWHC 1062 (QB). In this case, Desmond Browne QC- Leading Counsel and Jonathan Barnes (hereinafter referred to as the Claimant) sued Adam Speker (hereinafter referred to as the Defendant) on grounds that there were two uploads to a Swiss website accusing him of terrorist funding. In return, the defendant pleaded limitation to the publication period and also denied the words published. The issue, in hand, for this case is whether claimant is “entitled to presumption of law that substantial publication has taken place”. However, there was no strong case to conclude that the allegations of internet publications were actually read or if so had continued to read other articles. This allegation falls onto the Claimant nothing that there is no evidential presumption from the publication on the internet that the publication was even substantial. The conclusions drawn by Gray J noted that: ‘I am unable to accept that under English law a Claimant in a libel action on an Internet publication is entitled to rely on a presumption of law that there has been substantial publication.’

The principle of this case shows that the Claimant needed to have substantial proof of the publication (concerning the internet post) as opposed to assuming his favour in the court of law. This reiterates the points made in Part 1 of this article that evidence of defamation is key and needs to be logged when filing a case. Substantial evidence will work in your favour and ensure that the decision made by the judge is fair and just.
The implications of social media platforms and defamation are clearly shown in the case between Monroe v Hopkins [2017] EWHC 433 (QB) using Twitter. Tweets and other posts on social media can still be classed as defamatory even if the tweet had later been deleted and/or only viewed by a small following. This is because the tweet could have been re-tweeted or viewed and picked up by another media platform.

In this case, Hopkins tweeted against Monroe claiming that they approved on war memorial vandalism. The tweet was intended to be for Laurie Penny as opposed to Monroe, this error resulted in a case of defamation against Hopkins and a fee of £5000 to Monroe’s chosen charity. However, Hopkins refused to take up this offer and later was shown to have deleted the tweet.
This case is important in showing there needs to be caution when putting up posts on social media, targeting a specific person. It could be said that Hopkins should have paid the fee as opposed to deleting the tweet. This refusal to pay the fee does not put Hopkins in a positive light in terms of this case and perhaps the courts should have been stricter in ensuring a fine of some kind was paid. As noted above, the defamatory tweet still remains in those that re-tweeted or screenshot. Therefore, not completely eradiating the problem.

The concept of defamation and how to prevent defamation on twitter was noted in Part 1 of this article.

The final case to be explored is that of Zahawi v (1) Press TV and (2) Press TV Limited [2017] EWHC 1010 (QB). Zahawi in this case is the claimant and the press TV acted as a defendant. The claimant in this case was a Conservative MP for the Stratford-on-Avon area. The Defendants had published an article online titled “Report: Tory MP behind ISIL oil Trade” which included information to state that the claimant had traded oil from ISIL to Israel (trading with a terrorist organisation). This accusation in the press release was detrimental to the reputation and personal distress for the claimant. The master of this case examined the evidence and legal principles and concluded that a sum of £200,000 was adequate for the damages caused and an injunction was noted to be justified in this case.

This is a clear-cut case of how defamation proceedings can be solved and fines appropriately levied. This not only highlights the need for wider awareness of the issue, but potentially for regulations/ codes of practice, to be put in place relating to social media platforms, stopping defamatory statements being made. Perhaps, an awareness campaign or guidance could be put in place, to educate people on social media and internet users of the consequences of poorly considered posts. This could minimise or prevent these cases from occurring.

Part 1 of this article notes some top tips for defamation on Twitter. The concept and rules to prevent defamation are similar over the different social media platforms, a more general list of advice for social media is presented below:

1. Think before you post- carefully consider the consequences for you or the other person(s)
2. If you consider you have been defamed, try not to rise to the bait- by acting against the accuser you could be damaging your claims against them.
3. Stay calm, be smart and retain any screenshots of the evidence, shares, pictures or private messages sent
4. Consider how you have been affected by this defamation. For example: a job interviews could have been cancelled as a result of the harmful information posted. This could be used to further support your case.

Lawdit have significant experience in this area of law and are here to help if you have any queries concerning defamation or would like advice on how to minimise the risk of inadvertent defamation.

share this Article

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on whatsapp
Share on email

Recent Articles