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Arbor vs. Matteos
Court Constitutional Court
Full case name Arbor vs. Matteos, 12-1998 CC
Date decided 2 June 1998
Judge(s) sitting CJ Allen Howsham, J , J , J , and J
Keywords
Defamation

Defamation case; appeal from the Supreme Court. Arbor, sole proprietor of Arbor Catering, sued Matteos, who had hired his food catering services for a wedding. Matteos, days after the wedding, published in a local newspaper column that Arbor Catering's staff "cannot cook the simplest of meals, and that the food we received at the wedding left many of us sick in bed". Defamation had been regulated by common law, inherited from the United States, and therefore, the United Kingdom, up until this case, and therewith the valid defense against defamation was simply that the allegation or remark must be truthful. Matteos used this common law defense and stated that, in fact, the wedding goers were "sick in bed" after the wedding. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Arbor citing that Matteos did not sufficiently prove the allegation, and that witness testimony was unreliable. Matteos appealed to the Constitutional Court, alleging that his freedom of speech has been violated. The Constitutional Court dismissed the appeal, however went further and modified the common law. The Court stated that the allegation must be truthful (or a bona fide belief that it is true - based on French law), however, that it must also be in the national interest to be revealed. The Justice reading the decision stated that much of the ruling's inspiration came from the British Libel Act, which added that public benefit must be proven. This decision was subsequently codified in the Defamation and Personal Damage Act.

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