Jeynes v News Magazines Ltd and Another: CA 31 Jan 2008

Whether Statement defamatory at common law

The claimant appealed against a striking out of her claim for defamation on finding that the words did not have the defamatory meaning complained of, namely that she was transgendered or transsexual.
Held: The appeal failed.
Sir Anthony Clarke MR said: ‘no reasonable reader of the words complained of could come to the conclusion that they were suggesting that the woman portrayed in the photograph was deceiving people or intending to deceive people into believing that she was a woman when she was in fact a man or a transsexual. Any such conclusion would be perverse.’
However: ‘While I entirely accept that all questions of meaning are matters for the jury at a jury trial or for the judge at a non-jury trial, I do not think that it is right to say that this is especially so in matters of ‘demotic literature and popular culture’.
In every case, meaning is a matter for the jury unless a judge concludes, on an appropriate application, that the words complained of could not be defamatory, or put another way that a decision by a jury or indeed a judge at a non-jury trial that the words were defamatory would be perverse. On such an application, it is the judge’s duty in every case to decide whether the words complained of are capable of having the defamatory meaning or meanings alleged.’
Sir Anthony Clarke MR discussed the principles: ‘The legal principles relevant to meaning . . may be summarised in this way: (1) The governing principle is reasonableness. (2) The hypothetical reasonable reader is not naive but he is not unduly suspicious. He can read between the lines. He can read in an implication more readily than a lawyer and may indulge in a certain amount of loose thinking but he must be treated as being a man who is not avid for scandal and someone who does not, and should not, select one bad meaning where other non-defamatory meanings are available. (3) Over-elaborate analysis is best avoided. (4) The intention of the publisher is irrelevant. (5) The article must be read as a whole, and any ‘bane and antidote’ taken together. (6) The hypothetical reader is taken to be representative of those who would read the publication in question. (7) In delimiting the range of permissible defamatory meanings, the court should rule out any meaning which, ‘can only emerge as the produce of some strained, or forced, or utterly unreasonable interpretation’ . . (8) It follows that ‘it is not enough to say that by some person or another the words might be understood in a defamatory sense.”.


Sir Anthony Clarke MR, Tuckey, Jacob LJJ


[2008] EWCA Civ 130




England and Wales


CitedNeville v Fine Arts Company 1897
When establishing a defamatory meaning in the words complained of ‘it is not enough to say that by some person or another the words might be understood in a defamatory sense.’ (Lord Halsbury LC) . .
CitedJameel, Abdul Latif Jameel Company Limited v The Wall Street Journal Europe Sprl (No 1) CA 26-Nov-2003
The court considered the levels of meaning in an article falsely connecting the claimant with terrorist activity: ‘Once it is recognised that the article may be asserting no more than that in one way or another the respondents may unwittingly have . .
CitedPatterson v ICN Photonics Ltd CA 13-Mar-2003
The Court considered its own power to intervene in a defamation case to look at the meanings found by the judge hearing the case. The established principles ‘do not, however, prevent this court from intervening in an appropriate case, where it is . .
CitedGillick 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 . .
CitedSkuse 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 . .
CitedCharleston and Another v News Group Newspapers Ltd and Another HL 31-Mar-1995
The plaintiffs were actors playing Harold and Madge Bishop in the Australian soap series ‘Neighbours’. They sued on a tabloid newspaper article which showed their faces superimposed on the near-naked bodies of models apparently engaged in sexual . .

Cited by:

CitedBond v British Broadcasting Corporation QBD 19-Mar-2009
The court set out to establish the natural and ordinary meanings to be attached to the words complained of in a defamation action, and found defamatory meanings under Chase two principles. . .
CitedAjinomoto Sweeteners Europe Sas v Asda Stores Ltd QBD 15-Jul-2009
The claimant said that the defendant’s characterisation of its own products as ‘Good for You’ by reference to a description saying that it did not include the claimant’s product as a component, was a malicious falsehood. The defendant sold other . .
CitedBudu v The British Broadcasting Corporation QBD 23-Mar-2010
The defendant sought to strike out the claimant’s action in defamation. It had reported that the police had withdrawn an employment offer to claimant after doubting his immigration status.
Held: The claims should be struck out. The articles . .
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 . .
CitedIslam Expo Ltd v The Spectator (1828) Ltd and Another QBD 30-Jul-2010
The claimant sought damages in defamation against the defendant in respect of its web-site. It said that the use of hyperlinks to third party sites was sufficient to identify the claimant and associate it with the allegations made.
Held: The . .
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 . .
CitedModi and Another v Clarke CA 29-Jul-2011
The claimants, organisers of the Indian Premier cricket League, met with organisations in England seeking to establish a similar league in the Northern Hemisphere. A copy of a note came to the defendant, chairman of the England and Wales Cricket . .
CitedRothschild v Associated Newspapers Ltd QBD 10-Feb-2012
The claimant said that an article published by the defendant was defamatory. He said that the article implied that in his business associations he had put others at risk to their reputations.
Held: The action failed. The words were indeed . .
CitedTilbrook v Parr QBD 13-Jul-2012
The claimant, chair of a political party, the English Democrats, said that a blog written and published on the Internet by the defendant was defamatory and contained malicious falsehoods. The blog was said to associate the claimant’s party with . .
CitedMakudi v Baron Triesman of Tottenham In London Borough of Haringey QBD 1-Feb-2013
The claimant, former chairman of the Thailand Football Association, claimed in defamation against the defendant who had been chairman of the English Football Association. The defendant asked the court to strike out the claim, saying that some of the . .
CitedAuladin v Shaikh and Others QBD 5-Feb-2013
The court set out to settle the precise defamatory meanings alleged. Trustees of an Education Centre had appointed a relative of three existing trustees to join them. The claimant chairman resigned, objecting to what he said was poor governence. The . .
CitedTesla Motors Ltd and Another v British Broadcasting Corporation CA 5-Mar-2013
The claimant said that the defendant, in its Top Gear programme in a review of its car, caused it damage through malicious falsehood and defamation. They appealed against a finding that the words used were incapable of bearing the defamatory . .
CitedO’Dwyer v ITV Plc QBD 30-Nov-2012
The defendant sought to have struck out the claim for defamation based on the defendant’s ‘Homes from Hell’ TV programme.
Held: The pleaded meanings failed, and an application to amend the particulars was refused. The action was struck out.
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 . .
CitedMcAlpine v Bercow QBD 24-May-2013
The claimant alleged defamation in a tweet by the defendant. The court now decided as a preliminary point, the meaning of the words: ‘Why is Lord McAlpine trending? *Innocent face*’. There had been other but widespread (mistaken) allegations against . .
CitedRufus v Elliott QBD 1-Nov-2013
The parties were former footballers involved in charitable works. The claimant said that an allegation by the defendant that he the claimant had released for publication a text message in which the the defendant was said to have used extremely . .
CitedUppal v Endemol UK Ltd and Others QBD 9-Apr-2014
The claimant alleged defamation by other contestants at the time when she was participating in the defendants’ TV show, Big Brother. The defendants had broadcast the material. The defendant now sought a ruling that the words complained of were not . .
CitedCooke and Another v MGN Ltd and Another QBD 13-Aug-2014
The claimants made a television programme about the lives of people on benefits. The defendant published an article critical of many, and included a statement ‘Three more homes in the road where residents claim they have been portrayed as scroungers . .
CitedMcAlpine v Bercow QBD 2014
The claimant alleged defamation by the defendant in making a false allegation against him.
Held: The second Jeynes principle does not mean that the court must always choose the least defamatory meaning available. Where there are two possible . .
CitedHamaizia and Another v The Commissioner of Police for The Metropolis QBD 21-Oct-2014
The two claimants, each convicted of serious offences of false imprisonment and violent assault, complained of a press release issued by the defendant which, they said accused them of involvement in a murder.
Held: The words complained of did . .
CitedElliott v Rufus CA 20-Feb-2015
The parties were former footballers and business partners they fell out and the defendant was said to have sent and extremely offensive text message. After a copy was published, the defendant published a press release which the claimant now said was . .
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 . .
CitedMonroe v Hopkins QBD 10-Mar-2017
The claimant, a transgender chef and food blogger claimed in defamation against the defendant journalist in respect of two tweets. The court now set out to decide the meanings, whether they were defamatory by nature, and whether the serious harm . .
CitedLachaux v Independent Print Ltd (1) CA 12-Sep-2017
Defamation – presumption of damage after 2013 Act
The claimant said that the defendant had published defamatory statements which were part of a campaign of defamation brought by his former wife. The court now considered the requirement for substantiality in the 2013 Act.
Held: The defendant’s . .
CitedAhuja v Politika Novine I Magazini Doo and Others QBD 23-Nov-2015
Action for misuse of private information and libel. Application to have set aside leave to serve out of the jurisdiction. The defendant published a newspaper in Serbian, in print in Serbia and online. Though in Serbian, the claimant said that online . .
CitedStocker v Stocker SC 3-Apr-2019
The parties had been married and divorced. Mrs S told M S’s new partner on Facebook that he had tried to strangle her and made other allegations. Mrs S now appealed from a finding that she had defamed him. Lord Kerr restated the approach to meaning . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Leading Case

Updated: 29 January 2022; Ref: scu.265996