High Court Judge Rules out Magistrate's Bid to Sue Daughter-in-Law for Slander

Article excerpt

A magistrate yesterday lost his bid to sue his daughter-in-law for slander and libel over an allegation that he assaulted her and his baby grandson.

JP Richard Westcott's claim was struck out by a High Court judge who ruled that both an oral complaint and a written statement to the police made by Dr Sarah West-cott, the estranged wife of his son Edward, were protected by absolute privilege.

Mr Westcott, of Wheelgate, Wyre Piddle, Pershore, Worcestershire, was interviewed but not prosecuted over the alleged incident in March 2005 and was concerned that he had not had a chance to clear his name, said his counsel Ken Craig.

"Because he wasn't prosecuted, there has been no trial of the allegations and, in the absence of an apology, those allegations are still at large, and he doesn't have the opportunity of bringing an action for malicious prosecution, so the only way he can defend his reputation is by bringing proceedings for defamation," he said.

He told Deputy Judge Richard Parkes QC in London that the "very serious" allegations were known to colleagues of Mr Westcott, who, beforehand had regularly chaired the Family Panel at Worcester Magistrates' Court, and to Worcester Social Services. As a result, Mr Westcott, who maintained the allegations are wholly false, claimed his position had been compromised and he had been restricted in obtaining access to grandson Daniel, who was six months old at the time of the alleged assault. …