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Telegraph sees off application for judgment in default in Al-Haddad “apes and pigs” libel claim

I am representing the Sunday Telegraph in a libel claim brought by Haitam Al-Haddad.

The articles alleged that the Claimant was a “hate preacher” who had described Jews as the “descendants of apes and pigs”. The newspaper relied on a sermon allegedly made by the Claimant in 2001 the text of which had been available on the Al Minbar website until the Claimant procured its removal, by claiming that the words had been falsely attributed to him.

The Defendant raised 14 queries of the Claimant, including a request for provision of correspondence with the website, that it said needed to be answered prior to service of the Defence. On 8 August 2016 Master Yoxhall ordered by consent that: “The time for service of the Defence be extended to 14 days after the Claimant provides responses to the queries raised in the Defendant’s letter of 5 July 2016”.

The Claimant answered some of the queries but refused to answer others (including providing copies of the communications with the website) on the basis that the Defendant was not entitled to the information prior to the Defence. The Defendant contented that the Defence was not due until all the responses had been answered. The Claimant issued an application for judgment in default of the Defence or alternatively, requiring the Defendant to serve a Defence.

Master McCloud dismissed the application. She held that a requirement to “provide responses” requires substantive responses and does not entitled a party to “blow a raspberry”. Since all the queries had not been answered the date for service of the Defence had not been triggered.

She ordered the Claimant to pay the Defendant’s costs in full, remarking that they were less than she commonly encounters in defamation cases.

21 July 2017