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    Libel – medical reports – unauthorised disclosure of confidential material – justification

    [Defamation Act 1952 s.5.]
    C brought a claim in libel alleging that a psychiatric report prepared by D, a forensic psychiatrist, for the purpose of assessing the viability of a potential personal injury claim and containing a number of allegedly defamatory statements, had been disclosed to her GP and a consultant psychiatrist without her consent, and had consequently become part of her National Health Service records. D, maintaining that C had agreed to be referred to the consultant psychiatrist, submitted that all but one of the statements made in the report were true and that, pursuant to the Defamation Act 1952 s.5, her defence of justification should not fail merely because she had failed to prove that one point.

    Held, allowing the claim in part, that (1) the psychiatric report contained defamatory statements and the publication of those statements had been unauthorised. D succeeded, however, in her claim of justification because the statement proven to be untrue had not caused significantly greater damage to C than those statements proved to be true, and (2) implicit in the commissioning of the psychiatric report was a fundamental duty of confidentiality. The court was entitled to award C damages in excess of a nominal sum for the significant mental distress caused by that breach of confidentiality, notwithstanding that the information had not been used in a manner detrimental to her, Bliss v. South East Thames RHA [1987] I.C.R. 700, [1987] C.L.Y. 1303 not applied and X (HA)v. Y [1988] 2 All E.R. 648, [1988] C.L.Y. 2859 considered.

    CORNELIUS v. DE TARANTO [2001] E.M.L.R. 12, Moorland, J., QBD.

    “Current Law” April 2001