This is not a hypothetical matter: the defendant in the Bognor Regis case  2 QB 169 was completely ruined by the legal costs of defending a libel trial for having handed out a leaflet at a ratepayers' association meeting in a village hall. Seditious libel requires proof of a seditious intention, whereas state of mind is immaterial for defamatory libel, since malice is implied from the mere publication of defamatory matter. Where there has been judicial weighing of the competing public interests, it has been held that governmental bodies cannot sue in respect of their governing reputations: City of Chicago v Tribune Co (1923) 139 N. In the absence of legislative intervention by Parliament, it is the constitutional function of the courts, when declaring and applying the common law, to ensure that the law does not unnecessarily interfere with free expression: see In re Alberta Legislation  2 D. The judgement of Day J in the Queen's Bench report is in these terms  1 QB 94, 96:"This is an action brought by a municipal corporation to recover damages for what is alleged to be a libel on the corporation itself, as distinguished from its individual members or officials. It is altogether unprecedented, and there is no principle on which it could be founded.
Freedom of expression is an essential feature of citizenship and of representative democracy. The development of a tort of government libel, much more draconian than the crime of seditious libel, would have a chilling effect upon the freedom of expression of newspapers as well as of the individual citizen critic of government. The libel complained of consists of a charge of bribery and corruption. The limits of a corporation's right of action for libel are those suggested by Pollock CB in the case which has been referred to.
Nor could it sue in respect of a charge of corruption, for a corporation cannot be guilty of corruption, although the individuals composing it may.
JJ.)  QB 770 allowing an appeal by the defendants, Times Newspapers Ltd, Andrew Neil, the editor of "The Sunday Times," and Rosemary Collins and Peter Hounam, two of the newspaper's journalists, from the order of Morland J. In exercising its powers and carrying out its functions as a county council, the plaintiff has a reputation that is distinct from that of its individual members or officers. It is not necessary for the corporation to prove actual damage: South Hetton Coal Co Ltd v North-Eastern News Association Ltd  1 QB 133. The need for a local authority to be able to sue for libel to protect its reputation is a real and pressing one. The plaintiffs cannot rely on section 222(1) of the Local Government Act 1972, since their proceedings are not capable of promoting or protecting the interests of the inhabitants of Derbyshire generally and they constitute an unnecessary interference with free expression. There is no legal aid and proceedings are notoriously costly. Lord Keith of Kinkel: My Lords, this appeal raises, as a preliminary issue in an action of damages for libel, the question whether a local authority is entitled to maintain an action in libel for words which reflect on it in its governmental and administrative functions.
 QB 770 holding, on a preliminary issue, that the plaintiff could maintain a cause of action in libel against the defendants in respect of articles in issues of "The Sunday Times" dated 17 and 24 September 1989. At common law trading corporations can sue for libel: Metropolitan Saloon Ombibus Co Ltd v Hawkins (1859) 4 H. Non-trading corporations can also sue: National Union of General and Municipal Workers v Gillian  KB 81. Damage to its reputation may make it more difficult for the authority to borrow money or tender for contracts, and may disaffect its staff or deter participation in its pension scheme. The plaintiff does not have to prove his claim beyond reasonable doubt. That is the way the preliminary point of law was expressed in the order of the master, but it has opened out into an investigation of whether a local authority can sue for libel at all.
Derbyshire County Council v Times Newspapers Ltd and Others AC 534,  1 All ER 1011,  2 WLR 449, 91 LGR 179 House of Lords Lord Keith of Kinkel, Lord Griffiths, Lord Goff of Chieveley, Lord Browne-Wilkinson and Lord Woolf Defamation - Parties - Corporation - Publication relating to administration of local authority's superannuation fund - Publication insinuating maladministration of pension funds - Balance between public interest in freedom of speech and protection of authority's reputation - Whether local authority entitled to maintain action in defamation The plaintiff, a local authority, brought an action for damages for libel against the defendants in respect of two newspaper articles which had questioned the propriety of investments made for its superannuation fund. 71; Die Spoorbond v South African Railways, 1946 A. 999 and Argus Printing and Publishing Co Ltd v Inkatha Freedom Party, 1992 (3) S. 579.] The Court of Appeal erred in holding that Manchester Corporation v Williams  1 QB 94; 63 L. 805 conflicts with the Bognor decision and casts doubt on the general principle that a local authority is entitled to sue for libel.  2 AC 306.]Even if a governmental body is entitled to sue for libel, a constitutional privilege should attach to a publication imputing maladministration to such a body.
On a preliminary issue as to whether the plaintiff had a cause of action against the defendants, the judge held that a local authority could sue for libel in respect of its governmental and administrative functions, and dismissed the defendants' application to strike out the statement of claim. That case only decided that a local authority could not sue for libel in respect of an imputation of bribery and corruption. The categories of publications which enjoy privilege at common law are not closed: London Association for Protection of Trade v Greenlands Ltd  2 AC 15. Unlike a criminal prosecution, in a civil action the plaintiff does not need to show a prima facie case as a pre-condition to going for trial. If there is a need for greater protection to be given to freedom of expression, the manner of achieving that ought not to be an arbitrary removal from certain plaintiffs of their rights, but should be by extension of existing common law defences.
Close scrutiny of possible threats to fundamental freedoms is called for: Reg. The press is not above the law or entitled to some special privilege or immunity not enjoyed by the individual citizen: it has no greater or fewer rights than does the citizen for whom it is the surrogate. (4th) 577 and Retail, Wholesale Department Store Union, Local 850 v Dolphin Delivery Ltd (1986) 33 D. A corporation may sue for a libel affecting property, not for one merely affecting personal reputation. There must, therefore, be judgement for the defendant."Lawrance J said that he was of the same opinion.
In the Bognor Regis case  2 QB 169 no attempt was made to weigh the public interest in freedom of expression against the public interest in the protection of reputation. (3d) 755 it is uncertain whether that case remains good law in Canada in the light of the constitutional guarantee of free speech in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms: see Edmonton Journal v Attorney-General for Alberta (1989) 64 D. The Law Times report contains a somewhat longer judgement of Day J in these terms, 63 LT 805, 806-807:"This action is brought by the mayor, aldermen, and citizens of the city of Manchester to recover damages from the defendant in respect of that which is alleged by them to be a libel on the corporation.
The article should not be applied in the abstract to conclude that a local authority's right to bring a libel action will inevitably and in all circumstances infringe the article. Damages awarded to corporate plaintiffs are not large. There is a similar requirement where the restriction upon free expression is imposed by the common law itself: Attorney-General v Guardian Newspapers Ltd  and Attorney-General v Guardian Newspapers Ltd (No. Furthermore, the courts will, unless constrained by binding authority, declare the common law so as to be in harmony with the right to freedom of expression recognised and guaranteed by article 10 of the Convention and with the principle that only necessary interferences with freedom of expression are acceptable. 149 and Times Newspapers Ltd v United Kingdom (Application No. [Reference was also made to Castells v Spain, 14 E. These principles are of particular importance so far as the press is concerned as public watchdog. The statements of claims in this action by the plaintiff and in that by Mr Bookbinder are for all practical purposes in identical terms.
The correct approach should be to consider whether in the context of the particular case, the relevant domestic law is unnecessarily restrictive: see Castells v Spain (1992) 14 E. A local authority has no feelings to be hurt by a libel: see Fielding v Variety Incorporated  2 QB 841. The Convention, though not part of domestic law, enshrines the common law. The limits of permissible criticism are wider with regard to the government. 1549; Sixteen Austrian Communes v Austria (1974) 46 Eur. That of the plaintiff asserts in paragraph 6 that there were written and published "of and concerning the council and of and concerning the council in the way of its discharge of its responsibility for the investment and control of the superannuation fund" the words contained in the article of 17 September, and paragraph 8 makes a similar assertion in relation to the article of 24 September.
It is subject to restrictions which are prescribed by law, or necessary in a democratic society, or necessary for the protection of the reputation or rights of others. The defence of fair comment gives a wide protection to the newspaper. Where a statute confers an apparently unfettered power on a minister to restrict free expression, the common law principles of statutory interpretation require the restriction to be closely scrutinised and to be justified as necessary to protect an important competing public interest: see Reg. 445 and Hector v Attorney-General for Antigua and Barbuda  2 AC 312.] The application of the Bognor Regis decision undoubtedly interferes with free speech, authorises potential restrictions and penalties and has a serious chilling effect upon freedom of speech generally. Excerpts from the articles giving the flavour of the allegations made will be found in the judgement at first instance... The council is the 'administering authority' of its superannuation fund under the Superannuation Act 1972 and the Local Government Superannuation Regulations 1986 (SI 1986 No 24) made thereunder."Following the publication actions of damages for libel were brought against the publishers of "The Sunday Times," its editor and the two journalists who wrote the articles, by Derbyshire County Council, Mr Bookbinder and Mr Oyston.