Two high profile judgments have been handed down by the High Court in Hijazi v Yaxley-Lennon [2021] EWHC 2008 and Lachaux v Evening Standard [2021] EWHC 1797. They have set a benchmark in compensation for serious libel.

The Two Cases

In Hijazi v Yaxley-Lennon, the Claimant was involved in a school fight which was recorded and spread on social media. The Defendant, a political activist known as Tommy Robinson, posted two videos of himself discussing the incident. In these videos, Robinson named the Claimant and claimed he was part of a gang and had caused serious injuries to a young girl. This led to libel proceedings brought by the Claimant.

The Defendant relied on defence of truth which Nicklin J ultimately found lacking. He awarded the Claimant damages of £100,000.

In Lachaux v Evening Standard, the Claimant brought libel action against two newspapers, Independent Print and Evening Standard, for articles discussing events surrounding the breakdown in the relationship between him and his ex-wife and court proceedings in United Arab Emirates.

The articles claimed the Claimant became violent towards his ex-wife soon after the birth of their child. They also stated that the Claimant used Emirati law and its law enforcement system which discriminate against women to deprive his ex-wife of their child's custody.

The Defendants denied the articles caused the Claimant serious reputational harm. Although the Defendants used defences of truth and public interest, they ultimately withdrew their defences of truth. Nicklin J was therefore satisfied that an award of damages was appropriate. As a result, the High Court ruled in favour of the Claimant awarding £50,000 against Independent Print and £70,000 against Evening Standard for a total of £120,000.

What does this mean?

The number of libel proceedings have been on the rise. For instance, 2019 saw the highest number of defamation claims in the last decade. When compared to previous years, there was a 22% increase in issued defamation claims compared to 2018. This is unsurprising as the amount of information created, stored, used and published has been expanding particularly in digital form. In terms of compensation, serious libel can attract high awards which could go up to £300,000 as per Mr Justice Warby's decision in Barron v Collins [2017] EWHC 162. This means people and organisations need to be particularly mindful on the information they publish.

At Womble Bond Dickinson our international team of dispute lawyers have significant experience of strategically defending and pursuing defamation claims. Should you have any queries regarding the issues raised above, please contact Lyudmil Stoyanov who has been advising on these issues.

Attributed to Simon Lellouche, Trainee Solicitor