SINGH V WEAYOU – HIGH COURT GRANTS A FIVE YEAR INJUNCTION RESTRAINING THE PUBLISHING OF FURTHER DEFAMATORY STATEMENTS

Laura Swithinbank

In Singh v Weayou [2017] EWHC 2102 (QB), the High Court granted injunctive relief for a period of five years, restraining the defendant from further publishing or causing to be published the words complained of or any other words to the same or similar effect which are false and/or defamatory of the claimant.

Background

The claimant and the defendant worked as psychiatric nursing professionals at a hospital. The claimant was a night services coordinator and the defendant worked as a health care assistant. In August 2015, the defendant published an email to a senior manager and the HR manager at the hospital, alleging sexual harassment, including sexual assault, and victimisation. The email contained words which referred to and were said to be defamatory of the claimant. The claimant sued the defendant for libel and malicious falsehood. The defamatory meaning of the words complained of was admitted.

Facts

Serious harm

The publication caused the claimant serious harm to his reputation pursuant to s.1 of the Defamation Act 2013. The hospital was a small and close-knit working environment where gossip was likely. Gossip had taken place and had impacted upon the reputation of the claimant.

The claimant had worked at the hospital for 17 years, had been a respected professional and meticulous in his work, which he enjoyed. The allegations had been particularly damaging in the context of the hospital environment, namely a senior practitioner who had been responsible for the care of vulnerable patients. The allegations had also taken a toll on the claimant’s home and social life, and upon his health.

Failed defence

The defendant was found not to be credible and therefore his defence of truth failed. The statements contained in the original publication were not statements of opinion, they were statements of fact. A complaint to a manager at the hospital would have constituted an occasion of qualified privilege had the statements complained of been believed to be true.

Malicious falsehood

The statements had been made maliciously. The defendant’s motivation in making the allegations of a sexual nature against the claimant was revenge for what he perceived to be the unfair treatment of himself by the claimant. The words complained of had been published by the defendant knowing and, thereby, intending that they should be understood to bear the meaning identified and had been false.

Relief

General damages in the sum of £15,000 were awarded, with a further award of £5,000 for aggravated damages to reflect the defendant’s persistence in taking the matter to trial on defences he would have known had not been true. Including special damages, the total sum awarded amounted to £25,965.07.

An injunction was ordered to restrain the defendant from further publishing or causing to be published the words complained of or any other words to the same or similar effect, which were false and/or defamatory of the claimant. The period of the injunction would be one of five years.

Comment

It is clear that on the facts of the case, an injunction was an appropriate remedy. The defendant fought the case to the end and nothing in the defendant’s behaviour gave the Court confidence that the proceedings themselves would be sufficient to restrain the defendant from further publication. It was also recognised that the defendant’s conduct in making the allegations against the claimant mirrored similar conduct in his past. This likely provided further justification to order the injunctive remedy.

Singh v Weayou [2017] EWCH 2102 (QB)

Post By Laura Swithinbank (2 Posts)

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