Intentional Infliction of Harm
Requirements of the Action
There are three elements to establishing the tort of intentional infliction of harm. The claimant must show that: Wilkinson v Downton  2 QB 57
- The defendant acted in a way which was extreme, outrageous or unjustifiable;
- The defendant intended to cause emotional distress;
- The defendant’s actions caused the claimant to suffer physical injury or a clinically-recognised psychiatric disorder or illness.
The first requirement is a high threshold. It is not enough that the defendant’s behaviour is offensive or shocking. It must be ‘unambiguously socially unacceptable’, with no ‘justification or reasonable excuse’: Rhodes v OPO  UKSC 32.
The fact that the statement is true is a strong indicator that there is a justification or reasonable excuse to state it: see Lord Neuberger in Rhodes.
The defendant must have fully and subjectively intended the distress. It is not enough that he merely foresaw a risk that his actions might cause distress or that distress was objectively likely to happen: Rhodes v OPO  UKSC 32.
Generally, the courts do not allow recovery in tort for mere emotional distress, a rule which apparently applies here: Wainwright v Home Office  2 AC 406 (HL). However, Lord Neuberger in Rhodes argued obiter that mere distress should be actionable.
The defendant does not have to intend to inflict psychiatric illness: he must only intend ‘severe’ or ‘significant’ distress: Rhodes v OPO  UKSC 32.
A Fourth Requirement?
Speaking obiter in the Supreme Court decision in Rhodes v OPO  UKSC 32, Lord Neuberger (with whom Lord Wilson agreed) stated that there was an additional requirement that the defendant’s behaviour must have been directed at the claimant, or a small group of people. He argued that statements directed at large groups or the public at large should not be actionable. This requirement has not been echoed by any other cases, however.