Derbyshire County Council v Times Newspapers Ltd. [1993] AC 534

Key Point

Organs of government do not have a common law action in libel.


The Times ran an article questioning the integrity of how Derbyshire CC went about spending its funds.

Derbyshire CC sued in libel and appealed upon dismissal at the Court of Appeal.

Held (House of Lords)

Appeal dismissed; organs of government should not have a common law action in libel as this would be contrary to the purpose of the action and damaging to free speech.

Lord Keith

‘What has been described as “the chilling effect” induced by the threat of civil actions for libel is very important. Quite often the facts which would justify a defamatory publication are known to be true, but admissible evidence capable of proving those facts is not available. This may prevent the publication of matters which it is very desirable to make public.’


This case overruled the prior authority of Bognor Regis Urban DC v Campion [1972] 2 Q.B. 169, which had held that corporations working with local governments and government bodies would be entitled to sue for damages against reputation.