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A PERSON is liable as the publisher of a libel, where he has communicated libellous matter to another requesting or intending that the latter should publish it, and where the substance of the communication has been published accordingly.
But an “ innocent disseminator,” e. g., the seller of a newspaper in the ordinary course of his business, is not liable, if he, without negligence, did not know, and had no ground for supposing, that the newspaper was likely to contain libellous matter.
Parkes v. Prescott and Ellis.
Libel. Publication. Authority. In an action for libel the plaintiff complained of the publication in certain newspapers of reports of the proceedings of a board of guardians containing defamatory statements concerning himself. At the meeting at which the proceedings in question took place reporters were present in the discharge of their duty as representatives of the newspapers. One of the defendants was chairman of the meeting, and the other was present and took part in the proceedings. The latter said that he hoped the local press would take notice of this scandalous case,” and requested the chairman to give an account of it. This he accordingly did, and in the course of his statement said, “ I am glad gentlemen of the press are in the room, and I hope they will take notice of it." The other defendant thereupon said, " And so do I.” The reports complained of were afterwards inserted in the newspapers, being somewhat condensed but substantially correct accounts of what had been said at the meeting. These reports were set out in the declaration, and constituted the libels complained of. The Judge at the trial directed a verdict for the defendants, on the ground that there was no evidence of a publication by the defendants of these libels, to which direction the plaintiff excepted : Held (per KEATING, J., MONTAGUE SMITH, J.,
No. 2. — Parkes v. Prescott, 38 L. J. Ex. 105.
and HANNEN, J., dissentientibus, ByLES, J., and MELLOR, J.,) that the direction was wroug, and that there was evidence for the jury.
Per ByLES, J.— There is a distinction between the authority which will make a man liable criminally and that which will make him liable civilly for the acts of another.
Per KEATING, J., MONTAGUE SMITH, J., and HANNEN, J. - The man who requests another to make and publish an outline or suiniary of a speech, writing or proceedings, must know that the words will be to some extent those of him who makes sich summary or outline, and he must be taken therefore to coustitute him an agent for the purpose and be auswerable for the result, subject to the question whether the authority has been really followed.
This was a bill of exceptions to the ruling of MARTIN, B., at the trial of this cause.
The first count of the declaration stated that the defendants falsely and maliciously caused to be printed and published of the plaintiff in a certain newspaper called the “ Marylebone Mercury" the words following:
"At the last meeting of the guardians of this parish (meaning the parish of Paddington) a young woman named Mary Anne Parkes, daughter of Mr. J. J. Parkes, of 17 London Street, Paddington (meaning the plaintiff), was brought before the board and examined by them, she having become an inmate of the workhouse. After hearing her statements the guardians resolved that 'Admission to the workhouse having been granted to Mary Anne Parkes, the clerk be directed to write to her father, of London Street (meaning the plaintiff), informing him that the guardians will require him to pay for his daughter's maintenance during her chargeability.' To-day the following letter was read by the clerk from the young woman's father (meaning the plaintiff): –
“'17 London Street, Paddington, Feb. 1868. “'H. Aveling, Esq. ''
Sir, - I beg to acknowledge yours of the 7th, and say that I am glad to hear my daughter is safe, and I will call and see you relative.- I am, Sir, your obedient servant, J. J. PARKES.'
" The chairman (meaning the chairman of the said board, and the defendant, Frederick Joseph Prescott) said that considering the circumstances under which the young woman (she was twentytwo years of age) came into the house, the coolness displayed by
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No. 2. — Parkes v. Prescott, 38 L. J. Ex. 105, 106.
the father (meaning the plaintiff) was something incredible. Mr. Ellis (meaning the defendant William Ellis) hoped the local press would take notice of this very scandalous case, and requested the
chairman to give an outline of it. This was done by [* 106] several members of the board, the * following being the
chief facts : The young woman, it appears, is of rather weak intellect, and had been residing with a relative at Brighton. She arrived in London in consequence of something she had heard, and went to her father's (meaning the plaintiff's) house, but was told by the servant she could not admit her. The father (meaning the plaintiff) being out, the girl went away, and came back after his arrival and again asked admission. This was most rudely and offensively refused, and she was told she might go where she liked. She consequently sought admission into the workhouse, which was granted her. The chairman said that the girl had told the board some other statements as to the offensive and cruel mode in which her father had told her to take herself off, but these he would not now repeat. A member of the board said the girl had stated that her father (meaning the plaintiff) said she was now old enough to get her living. The chairman remarked that the man (meaning the plaintiff) evidently wished to avoid paying for his daughter's maintenance, and suggested that legal proceedings should be adopted in case of his further refusal to pay. The chairman's suggestion was adopted, the whole board agreeing in stating that Mr. Parkes's conduct was ' most disgraceful, and deserved exposure,'" whereby the plaintiff's credit and reputation were injured, &c.
Second count, that the defendants falsely and maliciously caused to be printed and published of the plaintiff in a certain newspaper called the “ Paddington Times” the words following:
“ Among other minutes of the board (meaning the Paddington board of guardians) the clerk read one relative to the admission into the workhouse of Mary Anne Parkes, aged twenty-two years, the daughter of J. J. Parkes (meaning the plaintiff), a gasengineer, in a large way of business at No. 17 London Street, Paddington. The minute in question was one instructing the clerk to write to Mr. Parkes (meaning the plaintiff), informing him the guardians will require him to pay for his daughter's maintenance during the time she is chargeable to the parish. The answer to this letter is as follows:
No. 2. — Parkes v. Prescott, 38 L. J. Ex. 106, 107.
"'17 London Street, PADDINGTON, Feb. 7, 1868. ""SIR, — I beg to acknowledge yours of the 7th inst., and say I am glad to hear my daughter is safe, and I will call and see you relative. -I am, Sir, your obedient servant, J. J. PARKES. * * To H. Aveling, Esq.'
"Mr. Wyatt (meaning one of the said guardians) asked if the young woman had misconducted herself in any way, and also whether her father (meaning the plaintiff) had actually turned her out of doors. The chairman (meaning the chairman of the said board, and the defendant Frederick Joseph Prescott) said he believed the young woman had not got a very strong intellect. She was present at the last meeting of the board, and there stated that a short time ago she was living at Brighton, and returned from there in consequence of a letter which she had received from her father (meaning the plaintiff). On arriving in London she naturally expected that some one would meet her at the station, but her anticipations were not realized, and when she presented herself at her father's (meaning the plaintiff's) house, the servant told her she had strict injunctions from her master (meaning the plaintiff) not to admit her, adding that Mr. Parkes (meaning the plaintiff) was not then at home. The young woman went a second time, and was refused admittance in like manner.
Mr. Wyatt (meaning the said guardian) said if the allegations were true, then Mr. Parkes (meaning the plaintiff) was nothing but a brute. The chairman quite concurred in this, and hoped publicity would be given to the matter. Mr. Gosslet, sen. (meaning one of the said guardians), said it was no use parleying with such a man. The best way would be to at once summon him before a police magistrate. Mr. Chew (meaning one of the said guardians) said that one of his daughters and a sister of Mary Anne Parkes were teachers at the Craven Hill Chapel Sunday Schools, and on hearing of this occurrence he invited the sister to his house. When she came he questioned her upon the subject, and she told him her father (meaning the plaintiff) was anything but a good man, and that her stepmother was not to blame for their many domestic troubles. There was nothing * whatever against [* 107] the character of Mary Anne Parkes to justify her father (meaning the plaintiff) in turning her out of doors. Mr. Todd (meaning one of the said guardians) said the unfortunate young woman would have had to walk the streets all night had it not
been for the kindness of Mr. Sullivan, who furnished her with an asylum in his own house. Some further conversation took place upon the subject, after which it was resolved to warn Mr. Parkes (meaning the plaintiff) that if he did not pay for the whole of his daughter's maintenance he should be proceeded against in the police court,” whereby the plaintiff's credit and reputation were injured, &c.
Plea - Not guilty. Issue thereon.
The trial took place, before MARTIN, B., at the Sittings in Middlesex, after Trinity Term, 1868. The reporters for the two papers were called for the plaintiff. They proved that they attended at the meeting in question in the ordinary course of their duty as the representatives of the papers to which they were respectively attached. The reports which were set forth in the declaration as the libels complained of were somewhat condensed but substantially accurate accounts of the proceedings which took place at the meeting of the board of guardians. During the discussion which occurred, the defendant Ellis said that he hoped the local press would take notice of this very scandalous case,” and requested the defendant Prescott, who was chairman of the meeting, to give an outline of it. Prescott accordingly did so, and in the course of the statement which he made said, “ I am glad gentlemen of the press are in the room, and I hope they will take notice of it. The defendant Ellis thereupon said, " And so do I.” The defendant Prescott also said that he hoped publicity would be given to the matter.
The learned Judge ruled that there was no evidence of publication of the libels complained of by the defendants, and accordingly directed a verdict to be entered for the defendants.
To this direction the plaintiff's counsel excepted in the following terms: " That the learned Judge should not have directed the jury that there was no evidence to go to them, and should have directed the jury that there was evidence for them that the defendants intended defamatory statements should be published of the plaintiff, and that the libels which appeared were what the defendants meant should be published.”
Giffard, with him J. C. Mathew, (Feb. 9) for the plaintiff. The question is, whether there was evidence for the jury of a publication by the authority of the defendants. It is submitted that there was abundant evidence. It is laid down in Starkie on Libel,