Green v Blake and Others

JurisdictionIreland
CourtSupreme Court
Judgment Date27 February 1948
Date27 February 1948

Supreme Court.

Green v. Blake and Others.
WILLIAM GREEN
Plaintiff
and
ISIDORE J. BLAKE, CECIL S. KING-HARMON, DERMOTMcCALMONT, ANDREW L. MOORE, ANDREW HUBERT WATT and GEORGE, DUC de STACPOOLE, Defendants (1)

Defamation - Libel - Privilege - Inquiry by domestic tribunal - Publication of decision in manner accepted by both parties - Ruling of trial Judge that occasion was privileged - Finding of jury that inquiry was conducted without regard to principles of natural justice - Disagreement by jury on question of malice - New trial ordered.

Witness Action.

The plaintiff was the owner and rider of a horse, Glen Rover, which ran in a nomination race at a point-to-point steeplechase meeting at Killeagh, County Cork, on the 16th February, 1944. Glen Rover won the race and the plaintiff was weighed in and in due course he was paid the stake money. On the 23rd February, 1944, the owner of the horse which was placed second in the race lodged with the stewards of the Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Committee (hereinafter referred to as the "I.N.H.S. Committee")an objection to Glen Rover on the ground that the horse had not carried the correct weight, and alleging that, after the plaintiff had dismounted and before weighing in, he had been given lead; he further alleged that at the weighing out before the race one of the clerks had tipped up the scales with his foot. The said point-to-point meeting was held under the rules of the I.N.H.S. Committee applicable to point-to-point meetings, these rules providing, inter alia,by rule 16, that the stewards of the I.N.H.S. Committee should have all the powers of stewards of meetings together with the various additional powers therein mentioned. The material powers were: under rule 16 (ii) (c) to investigate any case which seemed to them to require their interference, whether referred to them by stewards of a meeting or not, and to give a final decision thereon; under rule 16 (ii) (f), to warn off any person from all courses where these rules are in force for such period as they think fit; under rule 16 (iii) to publish, if they so think fit, in the Racing Calendar, their decision upon any matter within their jurisdiction. Rule 175 (ii) provided, inter alia, that if any person should conspire with any other person for the commission of any corrupt or fraudulent practice in relation to racing in this or any other country, he should be warned off all courses where the rules of the I.N.H.S. Committee were in force. The stewards investigated the charges made against the plaintiff and, as a result of their investigation, warned the plaintiff off all courses on which their rules were in force and they published their decision in the Racing Calendar on the 9th June, 1944. They published a further notice of the warning off in the same journal on the 16th June, 1944. The stewards of the Turf Club, who were the publishers of the Racing Calendar, in their issue of the 9th June, 1944, published a notice similar to that published by the stewards of the I.N.H.S. Committee, together with a statement to the effect that they extended the punishment to all meetings under the Rules of Racing, and they repeated this notice in their issue of the 16th June, 1944. The plaintiff thereupon sued the stewards of the I.N.H.S. Committee and the stewards of the Turf Club for damages for libel, the former as having caused publication and the latter as the publishers. At the trial, it was conceded that by his entry for the race the plaintiff had submitted himself to the jurisdiction of the stewards of the I.N.H.S. Committee, but it was claimed that the stewards, in making their investigation, had not acted in accordance with the principles of natural justice as, it was alleged, the plaintiff was not made aware of the nature of the inquiry held, nor did he hear nor was he made aware of the evidence given against him, and which he alleged had been given in his absence, nor was he afforded an opportunity of producing witnesses to give evidence on his behalf. In their defence the three first-named defendants pleaded that the statements complained of were published with the consent of the plaintiff, such consent being implied from his entry for the race under which he became bound by the Rules of Racing. They also pleaded privilege, based on the claim that they and the persons to whom the statements were published had a common interest in the subject-matter. At the trial before Haugh J. and a jury, the trial Judge ruled that the occasions of the publications were privileged in respect of both sets of defendants, and he refused an application for a direction made on behalf of the defendants. In answer to questions submitted to them the jury found that the defendants had published the words complained of, and that the statements were defamatory. They also found that the inquiries made on behalf of the defendants had been carried out with a disregard of the ordinary requirements of natural justice, but they disagreed as to the answer to be given to a question as to whether such disregard showed malice in the defendants towards the plaintiff. Haugh J. declined to give judgment for the plaintiff or for the defendants and the jury was discharged.

The defendants appealed to the Supreme Court against the trial Judge's ruling that there was evidence from which the jury might infer malice, and against his refusal to direct the jury to return a verdict for the defendants. The plaintiff served a notice of cross-appeal against the ruling of the trial Judge that the occasions were privileged, and his further ruling that, if the jury found that the defendants had acted contrary to the principles of natural justice, they should further consider whether they had been actuated by malice.

The plaintiff was the owner and rider of a horse which ran in a race at a point-to-point steeplechase meeting held on the 16th February, 1944, under the relevant rules of the Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Rules. Plaintiff's horse won and plaintiff was weighed in. On the 23rd February, 1944, the owner of the horse which was placed second in the said race lodged with the stewards of the I.N.H.S. Committee an objection to plaintiff's horse on the ground that it had not carried the correct weight and alleging that, after dismounting and before weighing in, after the race, lead was handed to the, plaintiff, and that when weighing out before the race one of the clerks had tipped up the scales with his foot. The stewards held an inquiry as a result of which they warned the plaintiff off all courses governed by their rules and, on the 9th June, 1944, they published in the Racing Calendar a statement of the allegation made against the plaintiff, and stated that after full investigation of the matter and careful consideration of the evidence before them they had warned the plaintiff off all courses on which their rules were in force. On the 16th June, 1944, they published a further notice of the warning off. The three first-named defendants, stewards of the Turf Club and publishers of the Racing Calendar, in their issue of 9th June, 1944, published a similar notice to that published by the stewards of the I.N.H.S. Committee, together with a statement that they extended the warning off to all meetings under the Rules of Racing, and they repeated this notice in their issue of 16th June, 1944.

The rules of the I.N.H.S. Committee governing point-to-point meetings provide inter alia, 1, that if any person "shall conspire with any other person for the commission of . . . any corrupt or fraudulent practice" in relation to racing in this or any other country he shall be warned off all courses where the said rules are in force; 2, that the stewards of the said Committee shall have, in addition to all the powers of the stewards of meetings, powers"to investigate any case which appears to them to require their interference . . . and to give a final decision thereon," and "to warn off any person from all courses" where the said rules are in force for such period as they think fit. A further rule authorised the said Committee to publish in the Racing Calendar, their decision upon any matter within their jurisdiction or control.

In an action for damages for libel, the plaintiff sued the stewards of the I.N.H.S. Committee (the three last-named defendants) as having caused publication of the said notice, and the stewards of the Turf Club (the three first-named defendants) as the publishers. At the trial, the jury found that publication had taken place and that the words were defamatory. It was conceded that by his entry for the race, the plaintiff had submitted himself to the jurisdiction and powers of the stewards of the I.N.H.S. Committee but it was contended on his behalf that the stewards in making their investigation under the rules had not acted in accordance with the requirements of natural justice, inasmuch as the plaintiff was not made aware of the nature

of the inquiry held by them, or of the evidence which, it was alleged, was tendered in his absence, nor were witnesses on his behalf afforded an opportunity of giving evidence. At the conclusion of the evidence, Haugh J. ruled that the occasions were privileged and left to the jury a question which they answered to the effect that the inquiries made by the defendants had been carried out with a disregard of the ordinary requirements of natural justice, but they disagreed upon the further question as to whether that disregard showed malice in the defendants towards the plaintiff. Haugh J. declined to enter judgment for either party.

On an appeal by the defendants, and a cross appeal by the plaintiff, to the Supreme Court:

Held by the Supreme Court (Murnaghan, Geoghegan, O'Byrne and Black JJ.; Maguire C.J. dissenting) that as, for various reasons, the trial was unsatisfactory, there should be a new trial of the whole action.

Per Maguire C.J.:—Accepting the evidence of the plaintiff, there...

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