One of the country’s smallest local authorities could be the first to bring defamation proceedings under the Localism Act 2011.
Rutland County Council has instructed Bevan Brittan partner Peter Keith Lucas to advise it on potential action against three independent councillors – Richard Gale, David Richardson and Nick Wainwright – who are collectively known as the Rutland Anti-Corruption Party (RACP). They deny the claims.
The Bevan Brittan report commissioned by the council alleges that several statements by the RACP could be deemed defamatory.
Should the council decide to go ahead with the action at a meeting tomorrow night it will be the first time such a case has been brought since the abolition of the Standards Board for England last year.
Bevan Brittan contends that the Localism Act provides the framework to bring such an action. In the report it states: “Some 20 years ago the Court of Appeal held that a local authority is not entitled to bring a defamation claim in its own name in connection with statements that damage the reputation of the authority as a whole […].”
It continues that this position has been reversed by the 2011 Act, which permits a local authority to do anything that an individual can do, including bringing defamation proceedings.