3 December 2010
The Supreme Court yesterday handed down judgment in the case of Joseph v Spiller ( UKSC 53), the first time it has considered a libel case since its inception. The panel consisted of Lords Phillips, Rodger, Walker and Brown and Sir John Dyson. There is the usual useful press summary. The background to the case has already been covered in a previous case preview on this blog and the background facts and the case history are not repeated in this post.
Despite branding the underlying dispute between the Motown Tribute Band “the Gillettes” and their entertainment booking service a “considerable … storm in a tea-cup”, the Supreme Court have broadened the scope and application of the defence of fair comment. The Supreme Court did so by reducing the burden formerly placed on defendants to identify facts they are commenting on with ‘sufficient particularity’. Lord Phillips also re-named the defence as “honest comment” (as opposed to Court of Appeal in BCA v Singh  EWCA Civ 350, which favoured “honest opinion” ) and called on the Law Commission to consider and review the present state of the defence.