C. S. T. Edmondson V. P. S. N’jie (1954)
LawGlobal Hub Judgment Report – West African Court of Appeal
The appellant, a legal practitioner in Sierra Leone, received by post from the Gambia a complaint from someone alleging that the respondent, a legal practitioner in the Gambia, had obta ned a tenancy agreement by fraud.
The appellant wrote a letter to the respondent setting out his client’s complaint and asking him for information; the respondent wrote an answer; the appellant sent the respondent’s letter together with the complaint to the Attorney-General.
Admittedly there was defamatory matter but the Judge held that the appellant had a duty to communicate with the Attorney-General of the Gambia and the occasion was one of qualified privilege, which, however, was destroyed on the ground that in the Judge’s view the appellant had been actuated by malice which was evidenced by the fact that the appellant some months later told the respondent that he did not believe his client’s story, and by the facts that the appellant did not enclose a copy of the tenancy agreement which was inconsistent with his client’s allegation; that the appellant did not interview his client to judge whether he was a reliable person and did not satisfy himself that his allegations were true; that the appellant did not mark his letter to the AttorneyGeneral as Confidential and stated that the complaint was that the client’s signature was a forgery (instead of saying that it was obtained by fraud); and that the appellant did not turn up at the trial in the Gambia but imputed to the respondent fabrication of evidence in regard to the interview between them.
The Judge gave judgment in favour of the respondent (who was the plaintiff below)
for damages, and the defendant appealed.
A solicitor who does not know or cannot be deemed to have known that a claim is false has no duty to satisfy himself as to his client’s veracity before acting for him and the question whether or not the appellant believed his client’s story was irrelevant; the appellant took the proper course in communicating with the Attorney-General before bringing an action on his client’s instructions, and none of the circumstances regarded by the trial Judge as evidence of malice were such evidence as destroyed the privilege of the occasion.