Blake v Associated Newspapers - Case Summary

University / Undergraduate
Modified: 22nd Feb 2024
Wordcount: 518 words


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Legal Case Summary

Summary: Legal Case Summary: The case explores defamation and a person's right to protect their reputation, specifically involving claimants on benefits.


The claimant, Blake, sought to bring proceedings against the defendant Associated Newspapers Ltd, for a defamatory article published about him. The article related to his receipt of benefits, and Blake contended it portrayed him misleadingly as a welfare cheat.

In response, Associated Newspapers contested the defamatory character of the publication, and also deployed the defences of justification and fair comment.


The primary questions of the case were:

1. Whether the publication contained statements which were capable of being defamatory.

2. If so, whether the defence of justification or fair comment could be invoked.


The decision, offering a relatively generous interpretation of the defences of justification and fair comment, gives an added layer of protection for publishers, albeit they must still be mindful of maintaining the essential truth of the 'sting' of any defamatory message.

The case helps delineate the boundaries between defamation and the freedom of speech, and provides valuable guidance on the limitations within which these defences can be utilised.


The publication was found to have potentially defamatory implications. However, the court noted the statements made in the publication were based on true events and therefore, carried the defence of justification. In addition, the Court of Appeal noted the statements were also expressions of opinion and therefore could be defended as fair comment.

The defences were interpreted such that if the "sting" of the libel was true, that might be sufficient justification, provided the sting was not augmented by untrue details.


  • Blake v Associated Newspapers Ltd [2003] EWCA Civ 474.
  • Defamation Act 2013.

Journalist Brief

In this landmark case, Blake sued Associated Newspapers for defamation claiming an article painted him falsely as a cheat. The court found the article capable of being defamatory. However, their ruling favoured the newspaper, stating it was justified by the basic truth of the ‘sting’ and that expressions of opinion could be shielded as fair comment. This judgement has profound impact on the balance between defamation and freedom of speech in the press.


What were the central issues in Blake v Associated Newspapers?

Answer: The case focused on determining whether the published statements were defamatory, and if so, could the defences of justification and fair comment apply.

What was the outcome of Blake v Associated Newspapers?

Answer: The Court of Appeal concluded that while the article could be seen as defamatory, the defences of justification and fair comment were applicable.

How does Blake v Associated Newspapers impact the balance between defamation and freedom of speech?

Answer: The case provides a significant precedent, expanding the legal protection for publishers against defamation claims, provided the 'sting' of any defamatory message is essentially true and framed as a comment or opinion.

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