Date06 February 2019

(1) "It is settled law that the question whether the words set out in any publication and of which a plaintiff in a libel suit complains are, in fact defamatory of the plaintiff, is for the jury, but before the question is submitted to the jury the trial Judge has the duty of ruling that upon the evidence before him the words complained of are (1) capable of referring to the plaintiff and (2) also capable of a defamatory meaning in the minds of reasonable persons in the circumstances of the particular case. (See also Knupffer v. London Express Newspaper Ltd. (1944) A.C. 116 H.L.; also Neville v. Fine Art & General Insurance Co. (1897) A.C. 68 H.L. Put in another way, it is the duty of the Judge to decide whether the words (1) can refer to the plaintiff and, (2) are capable of a defamatory meaning in their natural and ordinary meaning or, any of the meanings alleged to arise from their ordinary meaning or, as ascribed to them in the innuendo pleaded. In the discharge of the duties referred to above, if the Judge comes to the conclusion that a reasonable jury would be justified in the conclusion that the words have a libelous tendency he must then leave it to them to decide whether they in fact are libelous even though the words can also bear an innocent interpretation. (See Morris v. Sandess Universal Products Ltd. (1954) 1 All E.R. 47). Since in this country there are no trials, of civil actions for libel, by a jury the two functions of the Judge and the jury referred to above fall to be discharged by the Judge sitting alone; consequently, where his decisions on the two issues are challenged on Appeal a Court of Appeal has the duty to examine his decisions thereon on the basis that he the trial Judge is, indeed, the sole Judge on the two issues. A fortiori it will then devolve on the Court of Appeal to examine the decisions of the trial Judge in relation to the words complained of from the stand point of the jury and also the Judge." - Per Idigbe, J.S.C. in Dumbo & Ors. v. Idugboe Suit No. S.C. 85/1981; (1983) 14 N.S.C.C. 22 at 41; (1983) 2 S.C. 14 at 18 - 20.

(2) "In libel cases, it is well settled that the question whether words which are complained...

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