Ecclestone v Telegraph Media Group Ltd: QBD 6 Nov 2009

The defendant newspaper published a diary piece about the claimant, who alleged that it meant that she: ‘was disrespectful and dismissive of the McCartneys and Annie Lennox to the point of being willing to disparage them publicly for promoting vegetarianism’. The defendant asked the court to find the words were not defamatory at all.
Held: The action was struck out. The test is not whether a section of the public could think less of the claimant. The imputation was not serious enough to be capable of being defamatory.
Sharp J said: ‘In our society people hold different (and sometimes strong) views on any number of issues including the use of animal products. In a democratic society where freedom of expression is a protected right, people are entitled to hold strong views, and to express them within the limits laid down by the law
In my view the ordinary reasonable reader would see this sentence in the context in which it was used, as nothing more than the expression of a permissible view about an issue and matters on which some people hold strong opinions
I do not think it could seriously be suggested that it is defamatory of someone to say, without more, that they were dismissive or showed a lack of respect to those individuals, however well-respected they may be. As Mr Price said in argument, there is no obligation on a young person in today’s society to be respectful to people such as Sir Paul McCartney; nor are people likely to think the less of the Claimant merely because she expresses herself as not having much time for him because they hold different opinions on vegetarianism
a claim for defamation might arise where a claimant is alleged to have expressed views about people with whom he or she disagreed in such violent, excessive or abusive language that ordinary reasonable members of society might think the less of him or her for having done so. There may even be cases where a perceived lack of respect for a particular person in certain circumstances might be actionable in defamation. It seems to me however, that if the opinion expressed is an acceptable one there must be significant latitude given as to the manner in which it is expressed before right-thinking members of society would think the less of the person for expressing either their views, or their opinion of someone with whom they disagree . .’


Sharp J


[2009] EWHC 2779 (QB)




England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedThornton v Telegraph Media Group Ltd QBD 16-Jun-2010
The claimant said that a review of her book was defamatory and a malicious falsehood. The defendant now sought summary judgment or a ruling as to the meaning of the words complained of.
Held: The application for summary judgment succeeded. The . .
CitedCammish v Hughes QBD 20-Apr-2012
The defendant disputed whether the words complained of were defamatory, and whether the action was an abuse as being ‘not worth the candle’. The parties were in opposition over a proposed development of a biomass plant.
Held: The court found . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Updated: 05 August 2022; Ref: scu.377860