Hayward v Thompson: CA 1981

A later publication by the same defendant can be used to identify the plaintiff in an earlier publication. If the defendant did intend to refer to the plaintiff, it may be enough if the recipient understood it as referring to the plaintiff regardless of how unreasonable or extraordinary it may have been for the recipient to do so.
Lord Denning MR said: ‘whether one or more causes of action are to be included in one verdict or judgment will depend upon the exercise of the trial Judge’s judicial discretion.’ It is the practice of the English courts in defamation actions to favour a single award of damages, even where there is more than one cause of action.
The court should in interpreting a passage, look to the meaning which the ordinary and reasonable reader would give it on a first reading.
Lord Denning considered the use of evidence as to the meaning: ‘Many read the article. In England Sir Peter Scott did so. He said that the words ‘One is a wealthy benefactor of the Liberal party’ conveyed to him Mr. Jack Hayward. They did likewise to a Mrs. Cowper who gave evidence. In the Bahamas Mr. Hayward’s daughter and son-in-law read it and thought it referred to him. But the most telling evidence came from Mr. Hayward himself. He said that in the Bahamas, after the article, the telephone never stopped ringing, day or night, either at home or at the office. He set it out in a contemporary letter from the Bahamas: ‘The telephone has hardly stopped ringing since I returned and reporters from virtually every newspaper have been on the line.’ The most striking incident was that: . . ‘
Sir George Baker said: ‘There are few civil actions in which nothing new emerges in the course of the hearing.’
Sir Stanley Rees answered an argument that it was not open in law in any circumstances to rely upon a subsequent publication in order to provide evidence of a defamatory meaning or of identification in an earlier article. Counsel referred the court hearing that argument to a number of authorities, in which an original publication was of innocent material which only became defamatory upon the publication of subsequent material, submitting that the principle derived from the cited cases was that a writer of innocent matter could not, by reason of facts which came into existence subsequent to the original innocent publication, become liable in damages for libel because the subsequent material attributed a defamatory meaning to the innocent publication, saying: ‘The question we have to consider is whether that well-established principle applies to a case such as the instant one when (1) the original publication is defamatory; (2) when the second publication relied upon explicitly identifies the person defamed; and (3) it is published by the same party who published the original libel.’
The learned judge held that it was open to find that, as from the second publication, the plaintiff had been publicly named as the person referred to in the first article, which was defamatory.
Sir George Baker, Lord Denning MR, Sir Stanley Rees
[1982] 1 QB 47, [1981] 3 All ER 45
England and Wales
Cited by:
CitedWright v Gregson and Others QBD 1-Jul-2010
The defendant denied that the words complained of were bore the defamatory meaning alleged, and asked the court to rule accordingly and to strike out he claim. He complained of comments about his intentions for the use of money raised for charitable . .
CitedWatkins v Woolas QBD 5-Nov-2010
The petitioner said that in the course of the election campaign, the respondent Labour candidate had used illegal practices in the form of deliberately misleading and racially inflammatory material.
Held: The claim succeeded, and the election . .
CitedLewis v Commissioner of Police of The Metropolis and Others (Rev 1) QBD 31-Mar-2011
The defendant sought a ruling on the meaning of the words but using section 69(4) of the 1981 Act. The claimant solicitor was acting in complaints as to the unlawful interception of celebrity voicemails by agents of the press. There had been debate . .
CitedEconomou v De Freitas QBD 27-Jul-2016
Failed action for defamation on rape allegations
The claimant had been accused by the defendant’s daughter of rape. He was never charged but sought to prosecute her alleging intent to pervert the course of justice. She later killed herself. The defendant sought to have the inquest extended to . .

These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 05 March 2021; Ref: scu.420204