The definition of the public interest.
1. The concept of the “public interest” can also be viewed in a similar manner to the concept of the “common good” and the “general welfare “of a society. When I refer to the “public interest”- I am making a reference to the British public and Britain’s public interest; and therefore I am making a reference to “our national interest”.
2.When I claim www.dontbankonlloydsethics.com is a public interest site ,I am claiming that the issues being raised in the articles I publish – have, I believe, been published in the public interest for the common good and for the “general welfare” of our British society-and in the national interest. Therefore I am claiming that the publishing of such articles are a positive contribution to our national democratic discourse on the matters I have raised; such as corporate behaviour, complying with of codes of ethics and morals in our national life; and the adherence to UK Law embedded in legislation.
3. Also by claiming to be writing such articles in the public interest- I am putting these issues in the public domain for the public to read and to debate; and ultimately, it is for the British people to decide what is and what is not, acceptable behaviour in our democracy.
Publishing in the public interest.
1. It is only too easy for an Internet user or blogger to make a statement which may harm others and thus being defamatory under UK law. As such blogger’s statements could be read by millions. But freedom of speech is an essential pillar supporting true democracy; therefore if an individual who has concerns which he or she believes represent a threat our nation’s “public’s interest and well- being”- then such concerns- which are expressed in the public domain-being stated in the public domain- should be allowed to be published and the author should be protected. Provided that this is done with legal principles and guidelines in mind then it also follows that certain events or actions may be of such significance to the public interest in a democracy, that such laws are challenged may be challenged as being inadequate or outdated.
2.This site has been set up to examine the actions and behaviours of bank staff including mid-level and senior directors of the Lloyds Banking Group. I believe that certain actions and behaviours of certain executives of the Lloyds Banking Group contravene the bank’s own codes of conduct and also UK legislation. The specific legislation is the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000.Employment Law is also involved – embedded in UK statutes. Other areas of UK law may be referred to-such as the various laws covering bullying and intimidation in the work place.
3. This site will only publish facts which are provable in any third-party forum or court of law. The facts and events which will have been described will be robustly supported by witnesses ( or would be witnesses in a court of law) and by written statements in the banks e-mails and letters. Where appropriate, the actual written evidence (in e-mails and letters) will be reproduced verbatim on the site.
4.This site is a public interest site and is entirely self-funded. We make no invitations or solicitations from readers or supporters to make financial donations.
5. This site has been designed in an effort to protect the British public and Lloyds Bank’s own clients from- what I believe and can prove to be- unlawful actions which have materially affected the bank’s clients financially than should otherwise have been the case.
6.This site will describe certain actions and behaviours of bank executives but will not presently name those executives associated with such actions and behaviours. This undertaking is subject to review at any time and maybe reversed; if such actions are considered defendable in the public interest-via such defences as the “Reynolds Defence”.
7.This site will express comment and opinion and such comments and opinions will be held honestly-.based on provable facts.
8. The alleged actions of certain executives of the Lloyds Banking Group will be the subject of Formal Complaints being submitted to the Financial Services Authority and /or other state agencies- when and where appropriate. The submissions of the Formal Complaints against the certain executive will thus be a significant public interest and legal event and such an event will be published on the site. The content of the Formal Complaints will be published on the website in edited form; and due care taken relating to ensuring the legal principle’s in the law of protection- concerning defamation and libel.
Defamation and Libel.
1.Lord Justice Lawton in a case in 1965 said;-
“It is one of the professional tasks of newspapers to unmask the fraudulent and the scandalous. It is in the public interest to do it.It is a job which newspapers have done time and time again in their long history.”
Therefore a private citizen lawfully publishing in the public domain on the internet- is also conveying news with reportage.
2.Despite this -UK Defamations laws are considered more in favour of the claimants ,in recent years there has been developments which may favour the principle of “freedom of expression”;-
a.Human Rights Act 2000 with due regard to Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights -concerning Freedom of Expression.
b.Reynolds v the Times Newspaper (2000) which greatly extended the defence of privilege- (see below.)
c.The Defamation Act 1996; aimed at reducing the costs of smaller scale cases.
3.Defamation Bill 2011;-
a. In March 2011 the British government introduced a “Defamation Bill”. The main purpose of the proposed legislation is the reinforcement of the primary issues of public interest defence. One of the key proponents of the draft Bill is the introduction of public interest defence which can be used by defendants in defamation cases and there will be a requirement that claimants can show substantial harm before suing.
b. Lord McNally, Justice Minister, states that the Defamation Bill will;-
“ensure that anyone who makes a statement of fact or expresses an honest opinion can do so with confidence… In recent years the increased threat of costly libel actions has begun to have a chilling effect on scientific academic and investigative journalism.”
c. Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister states that current libel laws are “out-dated” and have “made it easy for the powerful and wealthy to stifle fair criticism.”
1. A corporation can sue for a publication “injurious” to its trading reputation. A defence may be mounted whereby the defendant can claim that such corporate or commercial activity is unlawful or dishonest, being unfair and, against the public interest; in contravention to UK statutory regulatory principles.
2. Disparaging of goods and services.
If it can be proven there is an intention to conceal or mislead ;or not disclose all relevant information, in a clear and transparent fashion ,in the act of a person purchasing a product or service from a corporation-then the publication may mount a defence against a corporation who is suing a publication “injurious “ to its trading position.
Summary of defences
1. In the UK the main defences against an action for libel and defamation are;-
It is robust defence to prove that the words being complained of-are substantially true
b. Fair Comment.
If an article has been published which expresses comment which is honestly held on a matter of public interest; then this is a defence.
c.The Reynolds Defence
Reynolds v Times Newspapers (2000); The Reynolds defence ensures the protection of defamatory material, provided such material was published in the public interest and that such actions were “responsible journalism”.
d. Other defences include absolute and qualified privilege; accord and satisfaction; and the offer of amends.
I am most grateful to David Banks and Mark Hanna, authors;
Source; McNae’s “Essential law for journalists.” (OUP 2009).