Defamation – Case Law: Derbyshire County Council v Times Newspapers Ltd

Held, dismissing the appeal, that since it was of the highest public importance that a democratically elected governmental body should be open to uninhibited public criticism, and since the threat of civil actions for defamation would place an undesirable fetter on the freedom to express such criticism, it would be contrary to the public interest for institutions of central or local government to have any right at common law to maintain an action for damages for defamation; and that, accordingly, the plaintiff was not entitled to bring an action for libel against the defendants, and its statement of claim would be struck out

So there is your case law against Councils bringing defamation actions. This one is against a newspaper, it’d be interesting to see whether a council ever tries to bring action against a blogger or hyperlocal.

Update: Meeja Law reports on an ongoing dispute between hyperlocal news site Ventnor Blog and Isle of Wight Council.

2 thoughts on “Defamation – Case Law: Derbyshire County Council v Times Newspapers Ltd”

  1. Makes no difference who the case was against it applies to everyone. A council may not know that but their lawyers certainly should.

  2. Local council’s cannot sue as a body but individual officers can, and can be funded by the council, the case law upon which this is based is Comninos v Bedford Borough Council. Our council has changed it’s constitution to fully enable the funding of libel actions by officers through delegated power.
    The danger to bloggers, newspapers etc is that the Derbyshire rule can be circumvented by a litigious council taking action under the cloak of a individual officer.

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