Data protection now allied with defamation

The Court of Appeal has handed down judgment in HH Prince Moulay Hicham Ben Abdallah Al Alaoui of Morocco v Elaph Publishing Limited [2017] and provided confirmation, if it were needed, that claimants may now sue for defamation and data protection concurrently. Defendants now have to be alive to this.

Until now the courts were yet to be persuaded that it was necessary or proportionate to interpret the DPA so as to afford a set of parallel remedies – see Eady J in Quinton v Peirce [2009].

Now they see “no good reason of principle why a claim under the DPA cannot be linked to a defamation claim”, as per Simon LJ at [44]. In reality this means that claimants in a defamation action may have an extra line of attack – that is now recognised by the CoA. As a result, defendants are highly likely to see increasingly multi-faceted claims brought against them.

The caveat? If damages arising under each claim are addressed as effectively the same then this may be viewed unfavourably. So, if you have a potential DPA angle on top of your defamation claim, care is required to particularise your pleadings so as to ensure the damage arising under each action is distinguishable. Defendants are likely to take issue with any doubling up in each case.

Another interesting point arose here in relation to meaning – imputing “disloyalty” is not necessarily defamatory (being disloyal may mean taking a moral stance against wrongdoing), but it can be if as in this case it formed an attack on C’s integrity and character such as would seriously harm his reputation – Simon LJ at [37].

SM&B acts for claimants and defendants in defamation and data protection cases – Media: Content & Disputes & Data Protection.