We commented last week on the judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of Flood v Times Newspapers ( UKSC 11). In addition to its judgment the Supreme Court provided its usual helpful Press Summary. There was a third explanation of the reasons for decision, provided by the author of the leading judgment, Lord Mance, at the time of hand-down. Although this has not been published in written form, it can be seen on the You Tube clip below.
Lord Mance described the issue on the appeal as to whether the Times enjoyed “public interest privilege, often known as Reynolds privilege“. He said that an article enjoys Reynolds’ privilege where it is in the public interest that it is published and the publisher acts as a responsible journalist.
He went on to say that the judgments of the Supreme Court highlighted several points.
First the article concerned a subject of high public importance and interest.
Second, public officers with a position as important as the police must expect their conduct to be subject to close scrutiny by the press.
Third, the story was published with the legitimate aim of ensuring a proper investigation by the police of one of their number where the journalist had reason to doubt whether this was in fact occurring.
Fourth, journalistic judgment and editorial freedom were entitled to weight when a court considers whether it is in the public interest to publish.
Fifth, the journalists believed the information published to be true and had acted reasonably in the steps taken to verify the information given to them by informants.
Sixth, there was no principle that journalists must postpone publication until after the conclusion of investigations which might lead nowhere.
Seventh, the article was balanced in content and tone and did not assert the truth of the allegations of impropriety.
The result was that the Judge’s conclusion was restored and the appeal allowed.