- Can someone be sued for alleged defamatory statements contained in a police report?
- If the answer above is in the negative then can someone be sued if the alleged defamatory statement in the police reported is repeated to a third party like a newspaper?
NOOR AZMAN AZEMI V ZAHIDA MOHAMED RAFIK  1 LNS 112
- Zahida Mohamed Rafik is an actress (“Actress”).
- Noor Azman Azemi is the Actress’ driver (“Driver”).
- On 29 February 2012, the Actress had asked her Driver to bank in cash of RM200,000-00 and the cheque of RM120,000-00 but the Driver had failed to do so and became uncontactable thereafter.
- At about 6.30pm on the same day, the Artist lodged a police report against the Driver stating, in essence, that the Driver had run off with her money amounting to RM200,000-00.
- The Driver’s name was referred to in the police report.
- It was clear that the contents of the police report meant that the Driver is a criminal and untrustworthy. The words in the police report were plainly capable of being defamatory of the Driver.
- After making the police report, the Artist was approached by reporters who were waiting for her outside the police station and the reporters had enquired the reason the Artist went to the police station.
- The Artist informed the reporters that she had lodged a police report against the Driver and also repeated the contents of the report to the reporters.
- On 3 March 2012, Harian Metro published an article on the incident.
- The Driver than sued the Actress for defamation in relation to the statements which were published in Harian Metro and other news articles. The source of the statements were the contents of the police report.
- The Artist argued that the contents of a police report was protected by absolute privilege and as such cannot be used to sue for defamation.
- The Artist then further argued that because the contents of the police report cannot be used to sue for defamation, therefore the protection extended to statements made in the newspapers which were a repeat of the police report.
- She argued that ancillary privilege applied and protected her.
- The High Court allowed the Driver’s claim.
- On appeal the Court of Appeal reversed the decision and disallowed the Driver’s claim.
- The Driver appealed to the Federal Court.
FEDERAL COURT DECISION – APPEAL DISMISSED!
The Federal Court dismissed the appeal on the following basis:
- It is true that public policy dictates that contents of a police report are privileged and as such cannot be used to sue for defamation even if the contents are untrue.
- However, the Federal Court rejected the argument that the privilege given to the contents of police reports should also cover the contents which are repeated to third parties or newspapers even if the contents are from the same police report.
- The Federal Court concluded that subsequent publication of a police report by its maker to the public at large is not protected by absolute privilege, except where the contents of the police report were made in or in connection with judicial proceedings.
- The Federal Court did however dismiss the appeal and disallowed the Driver’s claim on other reasons.