Legal Update 3 of 2018

CASE

KALUNG MAKMUR SDN BHD v. LO YEN NYUK [2018] 1 CLJ 459

ISSUE

Can statements made in a Police report be used to trigger a defamation suit?

BRIEF FACTS

  • Lo lodged a police report alleging that Kalung Makmur(KM) had lost three cheques which were handed to Lo by them.
  • KM claimed that the words in the police report mean that they were criminals and an untrustworthy professional entity.
  • The police report was subsequently put up by Lo at a public notice board of the Village Grove Condominium.
  • The publication of the police report was alleged to have brought KM’s reputation into disrepute.
  • KM then commenced a defamation suit based on the police report.
  • Lo applied to strike out KM’s claim by claiming that the police report made by him was protected by absolute privilege and KM had no cause of action.
  • The High Court allowed Lo’s application.
  • KM appealed on the basis that the posting of the police report on the public notice board showed that the police report was lodged with malice and as such a defamation action can be brought. Therefore, the argument of absolute privilege cannot stand.

DECISION: Appeal dismissed by a majority decision of 2-1

Majority Decision

  • The majority of Judges at the Court of Appeal referred to an older case of LeeYoke Yam v. Chin Keat Seng ('Lee Yoke Yam's case') and held that statements in apolice report are protected by absolute privilege and, as such, no defamation suit can arise from such a report.

Minority Decision

 

  • One Judge at the Court of Appeal held otherwise. He held that the Lee Yoke Lam’s case was limited to a situation that a defamation suit was brought on the basis of a complaint contained in a police report.
  • In this particular case the police report was then put up on a public notice board and therefore the defence of absolute privilege should not apply.
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