0370 270 6000

Comment must be "honest" – it doesn't have to be "fair"

2 December 2010

In a significant development to defamation law, the Supreme Court in Spiller v Joseph has clarified the defence of fair comment (also renaming it “honest comment”).

It is not necessary for a publisher to have identified the matters on which comment is based in sufficient detail to enable a reader to judge for themselves whether the comment is well founded. Instead, an honest comment  “must explicitly or implicitly indicate, at least in general terms, the facts on which it is based” so that “the reader can understand what the comment is about and the commentator can, if challenged, explain…”. However, a defendant is not permitted to get support from facts that were not referred to by the comment, or facts that the defendant did not know when he made his comment.

This clarification allies the defence more closely with the realities of publication on the internet, in editorials and in blogs, and makes a little progress towards the more robust reform position currently proposed in the Defamation Bill. The ruling will please publishers and proponents of free speech – but on the other hand, it might make the judicial process for persons defamed in unbalanced attacks more difficult.

Related opinions

The Future of Mediation

In an effort to build a stronger justice system, a shift in priorities has emerged away from adversarial court battles and more towards opportunities for consensual resolution. As one of the most popular forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), mediation has become increasingly encouraged.

View blog

Sequana: Supreme clarification on the duty owed to creditors

The Supreme Court has unanimously dismissed the BTI v Sequana appeal and reviewed the existence, content and engagement of the so-called ‘creditor duty’; being the point at which the interest of creditors is said to intrude upon the decision-making of directors of companies in financial distress.

View blog

IR35 rules to be scrapped from April 2023

The Chancellor’s recent mini-budget provided a significant announcement for business as it was confirmed that the off-payroll working rules (known as “IR35”) put in place for public and private sector businesses from 2017 and 2021 will be scrapped from April 2023.

View blog

Job applicant receives settlement due to unlawful age discrimination at interview

Janice Walsh applied for a job with Domino’s Pizza, hoping to secure a role as a Delivery Driver. However things quickly took a turn for the worse during her initial interview, with the very first question that she was asked relating to her age. Ms Walsh was ultimately informed that she had not been successful in her application.

View blog

Mailing list sign up

Select which mailings you would like to receive from us.

Sign up