Qualified privilege

Qualified privilege

A defence in defamation which states that, where a person makes a statement because he has a moral, legal or social duty to do so, he cannot be successfully sued provided he is not acting through malice (spite).

Qualified privilege applies where the person who reports a matter has a duty to do so, and the person to whom he makes the report has a duty to receive it.

Case example: Watt v Longsdon (1930)

A manager of a company was concerned about the activities of the managing director and reported this in a letter to one of the directors. The director, in turn, passed on these concerns to the chairman and replied to the manager. He also showed the letter to the managing director’s wife.

qualified privilege

When the managing director sued the director, it was held that the director had a duty to discuss these concerns with the people running the company (the manager and the chairman) and therefore had a defence of qualified privilege. However there was no duty to discuss these concerns with the managing director’s wife, and this was therefore not covered by qualified privilege.

Qualified privilege also applies to fair and accurate reports made without malice of:

• parliamentary proceedings;
• court proceedings;
• public meetings;
• matters of public interest which the public has the right to know, including responsible journalism where the journalist has carefully checked the accuracy of the story and, if possible, given the claimant a chance to put his side (Jameel v Wall Street Journal (2006)).

02/12/2020

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