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Defamation in the Political Arena

The Rotherham child exploitation scandal has given rise to several defamation cases, one of which (Barron & Anor v Vines [2016] EWHC 1226 (QB)) was recently determined. That case concerned a defamatory statement made by a UKIP politician during a Sky TV interview and concerning 2 Labour MPs. Summary judgment on meaning and liability had already been granted in favour of the Claimant MPs. However, the judgment on assessment given on 2 June 2016 by Warby J is of particular interest. That because, following the Defamation Act 2013 and the removal of the presumption in favour of trial by jury, such decisions are part of the “more or less coherent framework of awards” now mostly made by judges. Now part of that framework, this case therefore represents good guidance on the application of principles where publication was in the political arena, and specifically in instances where publication is by one politician about another on a topic of public interest. The award made for each of the Claimants was £40,000.00.

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