The UK is one of the ‘best’ jurisdictions in the world for those bringing libel claims, which has led to many people who consider themselves to have been libelled bringing their libel actions here whenever possible.
This has made life difficult for operators of Internet websites which allow the posting of comments or for those who simply assumed that their sites would not be accessed from the UK.
It appears that the courts are beginning to take a common-sense view of the situation. They recently refused to hear the claim of a Saudi man, Mr Yousef Jameel, who claimed he had been libelled by the US financial information group Dow Jones. He felt he had been libelled on a website they operated which was accessible from the UK.
Although he had a reputation to protect in the UK, Mr Jameel was not closely connected with this country. His case was not aided by evidence indicating that the relevant material had been accessed only five times from the UK. Of these five visits, one was made by Mr Jameel himself and two were made by his legal advisors. Previously, the courts would have accepted the right to bring a claim had the offending article been viewed just once by someone other than the claimant or his legal advisor.
The case will be comforting to website operators, who, it appears, are protected from claims by people with little connection here and when the ‘libel’ is very restricted in circulation. However, we still recommend that webmasters take great care in reviewing content on their sites. Had Mr Jameel had a close connection with the UK and the material been more widely viewed, the decision would almost certainly have been different.
The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.