Offer of Amends :KC v MGN Ltd [2012]

KC v MGN Ltd [2012] EWHC 483 (QB) (05 March 2012)

In this article The People newspaper claimed that the Claimant had been convicted of raping a 14 year old girl which was untrue. The Claimant learned about the article from a telephone call from his uncle.  Other friends rang him to ask him whether the story was true.  The People made no attempt to contact him to discover whether what they had said was true or false.

The article had been printed on Sunday 19 September 2010.  On 23 September 2010 the Claimant’s solicitors wrote to MGN.  MGN replied saying they would look into the matter.  On 7 October MGN telephoned the Claimant’s solicitors and also wrote a letter without prejudice save as to costs.  On 9 November 2010 a formal Letter of Claim was sent by the Claimant.  It sought an apology, and an undertaking not to repeat the allegations, damages for injury to reputation, embarrassment and distress.  The letter also included a draft apology with a sentence

  • “we confirm that Baby P’s father is not a sex offender and he had not been convicted of any sex offence, or indeed any offences”.

A reply was received from MGN on 12 November.  MGN apologised on behalf of the people and MGN Ltd for the mistake.  They agreed to publish an apology which would appear on 14 November and agreed that they would pay “a proper and suitable sum” by way of damages.

Further the letter said

  • “I believe that it is implicit from this letter that we are, in effect, making an offer of amends pursuant to Section 2 of Defamation Act 1996 but I mention that we are so that there is no ambiguity about the position”.

The offer of amends was accepted on 7 December 2010 but the parties were not able to reach any agreement as to the damages.  Meetings took place but no settlement could be achieved and proceedings were issued by the Claimant on 16 June 2011.

The Judge engaged in a detailed examination of the award of damages and decided that an appropriate starting point for the level of damages was £150,000.

He then went on to consider a discount applicable as a consequence of the offer of amends.  An offer of amends does give the party making the offer a healthy discount.  The Judge considered the range and in these cases it had been never less than a third and never more than 50%.  In this case he considered that the discount should be 50% and as a consequence awarded compensation to the Claimant of £75,000.

Following the judge’s decision MGN, sought permission to appeal on the grounds that the compensation order was too high and “disproportionate”.

The judge refused the publisher permission to appeal, but he put a stay on £45,000 of the damages being paid out until after the Court of Appeal decides whether or not to hear MGN’s case.

A more detailed examination as to how the Libel damages were calculated is here

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