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4 J. Media L. 1 (2012)

handle is hein.journals/joomaw4 and id is 1 raw text is: (2012) 4(1) Journal of Media Law 1-10

COMMENT AND ANALYSIS
Reynolds Privilege and Reports
of Police Investigations
Eric Barendt'
INTRODUCTION
When Lord Nicholls introduced in Reynolds v Times Newspapers a new head of qualified
privilege defence to libel actions, he expressed confidence that '[o]ver time, a valuable
corpus of case law will be built up' to clarify when the media would be entitled to claim
the privilege.' The expectation was that courts would explain how they assessed the vari-
ous factors set out by Lord Nicholls in his famous checklist, for example, the extent to
which the subject of the story was of public concern, and whether the defendant had
taken steps to verify the story or to contact the claimant for his comments on it. Even-
tually, the requirements of responsible journalism-one of the requisites of Reynolds
privilege-would be clearly established. Subsequently, in Jameel v Wall Street Journal
Europe SPRL2 the House of Lords made it plain that the factors in Lord Nicholls' check-
list should be applied flexibly; it would not necessarily matter, if comments had not
been obtained from the claimant, when, as in Jameel itself, he could not be expected to
say anything useful about the story. Further, in determining whether there was a public
interest in publication of the information, the story should be considered as a whole,
and some room should be left to editorial judgement as to whether it was necessary to
incorporate the particular defamatory allegations.
Emeritus Professor, UCL UK. The author thanks Paul Mitchell, James Price QC, and Richard Rampton QC
for their comments.
1  [1999] 4 All ER 609, 626.
2  [2007] 1 AC 359.

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