Reynolds defence

Reynolds Vs Times News Paper 2001 2 Ac 127


In English law the defamation is defined as “publication of a statement which tends to lower a person in the estimation of right thinking members of a society generally or which trends to make them to shun or avoid that person.”1But there was some more views regarding Defamation, according to Lord Atkin ”statement must tend to lower the claimant in the estimation of right thinking members of society generally ,and in particular cause him to be regarded with the feelings to hatred ,contempt ,ridicule ,fear and disesteem”.2By Mansfield CJ “the words which were offensive exploitation was not defamation.”3 And one of the long footing definition of Defamation was “words which would tend to cause others to shun or avoid you.”4

Reynolds Case:

Mr.Reynolds Vs Times Newspaper

This case came before the House of Lords as an appeal .This appeal interface regards “freedom of expression , protection of reputation and qualified privilege.”5

This case was about the Prime minister of Ireland , where Mr .Reynolds annouced his resignation in the Dail6 on 17th Nov 94 due to political crisis .On 20th Nov the Sunday times published their news in British and Ireland .In British edition they focused as “Goodbye Goombee man,” with sub headed “why a fib too far proved fatal for the political career of Ireland's peace maker and Mr Fixit”.7

For that Mr Reynolds took the libel8proceedings against the British edition by expressing that “sting of the article was that he had deliberately and dishonestly misled the Dail” by hiding basis information and also wrongly directed his coalition cabinet colleagues by hiding this information and “had lied to them about when the information had come into possession”.9

Mr. Reynolds proceedings came before Franch J and jury and main issues were about the Article's Qualified privilege10 at common law, justification , malice and damages. In this case Times took a defence as this a matter of public interest, fair and accurate report .Here the judge took two different views.

1.Times qualified privilege

2. Allegation made by Mr Reynolds “the defence of justification was failed.”

For that said judgement , Mr Reynolds preferred an appeal before the House of Lords, where the counter appeal was filed by the Sunday Times for the defence of qualified privilege.


Outcomes from the Reynolds case are qualified privilege11, Responsible journalism12, freedom of expression13 and rights to reputation.14

Qualified privilege means a statement made by a person about another with fair in nature and there is a legal or moral compulsion to give the information by the person who make it and another person is bound to receive it.15 In this case it is endeavor to setup the term duty-interest privilege,16 where the media bound to report to relevant authorities rather than publishing to the public of their uncovered wrong doing ,which these were objected by the media.

Therefore by L. Nicholas, publication “in absence of proof of

Malice in the public interest” is not protected by privilege,17 where

Mr Reynolds statement in the dail “was his answer to the allegation” .An Article omitting all reference to his statement could not be” fair and accurate report of proceedings “in the Dail.18

Responsible journalism means “Publisher responds fairly and reasonable in gathering and publishing the information and whether the conduct of the journalism met the standard of care that a reasonable publisher would take to verify the information published.19

By Lord Nicholas pointed ten codes to satisfy the responsible journalism in his judgement .They were

“1.seriousness of allegation-serious allegation will be protected rather than trivial allegations.

2. Nature of information- which concern about public matter.

3. Source of information-is to see such information is true in nature.

4. Steps taken to verify the information , was the publisher put effort to elucidate the information from other side of their story.

5. Status of the information is to verify the allegation was old or new one or whether it was raised by someone and got fail.

6 . The Urgency of the matter is the news perishable one and paper must compete to be first with the news.

7. Whether comment was sought from claimant is whether to see the other side by keeping allegations before the claimant and point out

How or why the allegations might be untrue which give protection to publisher.

8. And to see, whether the articles contained the gist of the claimant side of the story.

9. Tone of the article where by Lord Nicholas “A newspaper can raise queries or call for an investigations.”It need not adopt allegations as statement of fact.

10. Circumstances of the publication where the allegation should be brought to the public attention “as quickly as possible”. These are the codes for the responsible journalism .From the Reynolds case Lord J Nicholas laid down these codes, where the publisher was failed to comply these codes.

Rights to Reputation and Freedom of Expression:

European convention on Human Rights Art 8 states about the rights to respect for one's private life and Art 10 about the right to freedom of expression. Regarding these articles, Art 10 is not an absolute right which is subjected to certain restrictions.

By L Nicholas” Protection of reputation is not a matter of importance only to the affected individual and family and conducive to the public good .It is in the public interest that the reputation of public figures should not be debased falsely.21Thus in Reynolds case, Art 8 overlaps the Art 10 where the Times failed to show the absence of maice, where the Mr Reynolds had a right to protect his reputation.


From the above statement, the outcome of Reynolds defence are whether the publisher is entitled for qualified privilege .If so whether the publisher acted in Responsible Journalism or the Art 10 of the European convention on Human Rights is valuable than the Art 8 of the European convention of the human rights .The results are Times failed in qualified privilege and not in responsible journalism .Moreover European convention on Human rights, Art 8 dominate over the Art 10 of European convention on Human rights.

Bibliography: English-law-of-defamation-126215.html [opsi] of Truth aspx [Article by Adam speaker] 5/numbers2/cooke/cooke.pdf

[ESLJ Volume 5 Number 2 Articles by John cooke]


[basic uk libel law for idiots by Adam porter dec'02'