Yeo v Times Newspapers Ltd - court provides guidance on Reynolds defence

Yeo v Times Newspapers Ltd - court provides guidance on Reynolds defence

Following an unsuccessful libel claim by Tim Yeo, former MP, against the Times Newspapers Ltd (Yeo v Times Newspapers Ltd  [2015] EWHC 3375 (QB)), what lessons can be learnt about the scope of the Reynolds privilege and the application of Article 8 in defamation claims?

What is the background to this dispute?

In May 2013, Mr Yeo, then Chair of the House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Select Committee, was approached by two undercover journalists posing as representatives for a solar energy technology company. Mr Yeo agreed to a lunch meeting with the undercover journalists in which he was asked about undertaking paid consultancy work. The meeting was covertly filmed. After giving Mr Yeo the opportunity to comment on their proposed coverage of the meeting, the Sunday Times published two articles containing ‘cash for advocacy’ allegations against Mr Yeo which resulted in Mr Yeo issuing a libel claim against Times Newspapers Ltd (TNL).

At a pre-trial hearing in June 2014 (Yeo v Times Newspapers Ltd [2014] EWHC 2853 (QB)) the court determined that the meaning of the articles published by the Sunday Times was that Mr Yeo was prepared to, and had offered to, act in a way that was in breach of the Code of Conduct of the House of Commons by acting as a paid parliamentary advocate.

At a pre-trial review in July 2015 (Yeo v Times Newspapers Ltd [2015] EWHC 2132 (QB), [2015] All ER (D) 282 (Jul)) the court refused to lay ground rules as to parliamentary privilege, to strike out the claim as to the second article and to amend the claimant’s costs budget. However, it struck out parts of the claimant’s witness statement and case. For further commentary see News Analysis.

[caption id="attachment_5551" align="alignnone" width="300"] (c) James Cridland[/caption]

What were the key issues at trial?

The key issue at trial was whether TNL’s defences could be made out. TNL denied that the statements were defamatory but in the alternative pleaded the following defences:

  1. the factua

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