Refusing defeat: a final call for the revival of the Polly Peck defence

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Australia is an interesting enclave of defamation jurisprudence. It is particularly interesting in respect of the so-called ‘Polly Peck’ defence. It can be traced to two landmark English decisions: Lucas-Box v News Group Newspapers1 and Polly Peck (Holdings) v Trelford.2 Broadly speaking, ‘Polly Peck’ defends a defamation claim by relying on defamatory meaning that differs from the meaning pleaded by the plaintiff. Australian appellate judges have been quite skeptical about it. Following some critical obiter dicta in Chakravarti v Adelaide Newspapers Ltd,3 the defence has been substantially modified. In 2000, the Victorian Court of Appeal replaced it with the more confined ‘Hore-Lacy’ approach.4 This article argues for the full restoration of the Polly Peck methodology. In particular, it argues for Australian courts to once again recognise the now critically endangered ‘common sting’ plea. It does so by reviving the antipodean debate around the permissibility of alternative meaning pleas. Our fixations on the plaintiff’s pleaded imputations, as well as our fears of ‘roving inquiry’ have not been good reasons for abandoning Polly Peck.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)306-340
Number of pages35
JournalMedia and Arts Law Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes

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