The court was asked for preliminary rulings as to meanings in a defamation action. She complained of articles regarding the failure of a business enterprise.
Held: The court’s task is well settled: ‘The judge should give the relevant article the natural and ordinary meaning(s) which it would have conveyed to ordinary reasonable readers reading the article once (that is to say, reasonable readers of the journal in question). Such a hypothetical reasonable reader should not be treated as either naive or unduly suspicious, but recognised as capable of reading between the lines. As is well known, however, he or she should not be treated as ‘avid for scandal’. Naturally, a judge should have regard to the impression the article has made upon himself in considering what impact it would have made on the hypothetical reasonable reader. It follows that the exercise is to a large extent that of forming an impression. It should not be obscured by over-elaborate analysis or by looking for hidden meanings.’
Applying that test, the claimant’s pleaded meanings were overstated. Furthermore the judge could see no Chase level 1 meaning as suggested.
Other statements about which complaint were made were statements of opinion or comment: ‘propositions to the effect that the Claimant has ‘lost all credibility’, or ‘will find it hard to carry on’, or has a reputation that is ‘undeserved’ are essentially matters of opinion. There can be no definitive answers and they are not verifiable matters of fact. An ordinary reasonable reader would recognise them as comments. ‘
 EWHC 1544 (QB)
England and Wales
Cited – Skuse v Granada Television CA 30-Mar-1993
The claimant complained that the defendant had said in a television programme that he had failed to act properly when presenting his expert forensic evidence in court in the trial of the Birmingham Six.
Held: The court should give to the . .
Cited – Gillick v British Broadcasting Corporation and Another CA 19-Oct-1995
Words which were broadcast were capable of meaning that the Plaintiff’s behaviour had contributed to deaths. She was a campaigner against the giving of contraceptive advice to young girls.
Held: The statement was defamatory. The full test was: . .
Cited – Gillick v Brook Advisory Centres and Another CA 23-Jul-2001
The claimant appealed after closing her action for an alleged defamation by the respondents in a leaflet published by them. She challenged an interim decision by the judge as to the meaning of the words complained of.
Held: The leaflet made . .
Cited – Chase v Newsgroup Newspapers Ltd CA 3-Dec-2002
The defendant appealed against a striking out of part of its defence to the claim of defamation, pleading justification.
Held: The Human Rights Convention had not itself changed the conditions for a plea of justification based upon reasonable . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Updated: 01 November 2021; Ref: scu.417798