Summary and implications
In the case of Mir Shakil-Ur-Raman v ARY Network Ltd, Fayaz Ghafoor  EWHC 3110 (QB), a well-known media magnate and the head of the largest media group in Pakistan succeeded in his defamation claim against his commercial rivals, with the court awarding the claimant substantial damages in the sum of £185,000. The judgment provides a useful examination and reminder of the assessment of damages in defamation cases.
Judgment in Mir Shakil-Ur-Raman v ARY Network Ltd, Fayaz Ghafoor
The claimant complained that in 24 episodes of a programme produced by the defendants, the defendants had mounted a campaign of abuse and defamation against him. The claimant argued that the statements complained of portrayed him as:
The programmes were broadcast by the defendants in the UK.
How was the level of damages decided?
The court held that the statements were “clearly defamatory” and none of the statements were successfully defended. Moreover, the allegations in this case were described as “very serious”, going to the “core attributes of the Claimant’s personality”, and they had been extensively published to tens of thousands of viewers.
When calculating damages, the following points were made by the court:
Given the gravity and scale of the publications and the intensity with which the allegations were advanced, the court awarded damages in the sum of £185,000.
Remedies other than damages
Bearing in mind the court’s observations about the absence of substantive defences put forward by the defendants, this appears to have been an apt case for it to use its powers under section 12 of the Defamation Act 2013, requiring the defendants to publish a summary of the judgment to highlight further the falsity of the allegations.
The judgment records that the court was prepared to hear arguments as to whether it was appropriate to grant other remedies, including an order under section 12 of the Act. This demonstrates the court's awareness that a general damages award, on its own, no matter how high, may not always be sufficient to repair the harm caused to a claimant's reputation as a result of the defamation. In some cases, something more may be needed to vindicate the claimant's reputation.
Damages in defamation claims serve a dual purpose. Firstly, to compensate the claimant for the distress and loss that flows from the defamatory statement. Secondly, damages can be seen as symbolic, serving to vindicate the claimant’s reputation publicly and to mark the seriousness of the defamation.
Damages in defamation claims are “at large” as they cannot be calculated using an arithmetical formula or by adhering to a clear and objective standard. In assessing damages, the court can take into account various factors including the conduct of the claimant, the impact the libel has had on the claimant, the nature of the libel, its severity and how extensively the defamatory statements have been circulated.The motive and conduct of the defendant as well as the manner in which the claim has been defended may also be relevant when assessing damages. The above combined factors all played a part in the court's decision to award significant damages to the claimant in Mir Shakil-Ur-Raman v ARY Network Ltd.
There will clearly be different views as to whether the damages awarded to the claimant in Mir Shakil-Ur-Raman were too high or, perhaps even, too low. In that case, the court remarked that the level of the damages awarded should be sufficient to convince any fair-minded observer of the baselessness of the serious charges made against the claimant and to offer solace to the claimant in respect of the hurt and distress which had so clearly been caused.