Alan Payne acts for both Defendants in successful strike out application in Bill Edwards v Police & Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire and the Chief Constable of the North Yorkshire Police, in a claim for defamation, misfeasance and breach of Article 8
The Claimant was arrested in August 2012 on suspicion of attempted murder for discharging his shotgun at the vehicle of a thief stealing scrap metal from his farm. He was never charged, but Leeds Crown Court dismissed his appeal against the revocation of his firearms licence. The case raised high-profile issues about the use of force in self-defence against criminals and attracted national press coverage.
The PCC gave an interview on the radio during which she suggested there were concerns surrounding the Claimant’s actions even after the thief had left the Claimant’s property. The Claimant issued defamation proceedings challenging the PCC’s comments, and the briefing that she had received from North Yorkshire Police. He also alleged that both Defendants were liable for misfeasance in public office, and that North Yorkshire Police were additionally liable for malicious falsehood, negligence, and breaches of the Data Protection Act.
The libel and slander claims were struck out on the grounds that they were procedurally defective, in that they failed to adequately identify the words complained of.
The Court also found, in relation to the slander claim against NYP, that none of the words identified in any event had the meaning alleged by the Claimant.
In the libel claim against the PCC, it was held that the meaning contended for by the Claimant was unlikely to be sustainable, and relied upon facts rejected by the Crown Court in the firearms appeal. DJ Geddes described the claim as “founded on an untruth, untruthfully maintained” and struck it out as an abuse of the court’s process.
DJ Geddes also struck out the negligence claim against North Yorkshire Police, holding that there was no duty of care on public policy grounds and no link between the alleged negligence and any damage caused. She struck out all the remaining claims as being totally without merit and ordered that the Claimant pay both Defendants’ costs in full.
This case illustrates the complex and precise nature of defamation proceedings as well as the wide range of claims that police forces and other public bodies can face.
The full judgment may be read here.
Alan Payne acts on behalf of public authorities in all types of civil claim.