The applicant, Mr. Miloslavsky, was a historian. He wrote a pamphlet entitled “War Crimes and the Wardenship of Winchester College” in which he accused the Warden, Lord Aldington, of war crimes. The pamphlet was circulated to members of the school, Parliament, House of Lords and the press. Lord Aldington sued the applicant for libel, and the applicant was sentenced to pay damages in sum of £1 500 000. The judge also granted an injunction restraining the applicant from publishing or allowing to be published the words contained in the pamphlet.
The applicant claimed that the size of the award and the breadth of the injunction was disproportionate and thus violated his right to freedom of expression.
The Court found that the size of the award was disproportionate and thus violated the applicant’s freedom of expression. However, regarding the injunction no violation was found, as the applicant had published false statements damaging Lord Aldington’s reputation.
It was found by the Court that the damages and the injunction were prescribed by law and pursued the legitimate aim of protecting the reputation and rights of others. The Court noted that the freedom of expression does not require that a person shall be able to anticipate with any degree of certainty the quantum of damages that would be awarded in case of libel. The fact that the British law did not provide upper or lower limit on the amount of damages was logical, as the law had to be flexible.
As regards the proportionality of the size of the award:
- The Court emphasized that an award of damages for defamation must bear a reasonable relationship of proportionality to the injury to reputation suffered.
- The award was three times the size of the largest of previous awards made and also no comparable award was ever made since.
- At the time of the applicant's case the British law did not offer adequate and effective safeguards against a disproportionately large award.
- With regard to the injunction, the Court stated that is was a logical consequence of the finding of libel. There was nothing to indicate that it went beyond the purpose of preventing the applicant from repeating his allegations against Lord Aldington or was otherwise disproportionate.