Knuppfer v London Express Newspaper Ltd: HL 3 Apr 1944

The plaintiff complained that the defendant’s article was defamatory in implying that he was an agent of Hitler. He was representative in Great Britain of a political party of Russian emigres known as Mlado Russ or Young Russia. The total membership was about 2000 and the membership of the British branch was twenty four. The article gave no names, but the plaintiff relied on his own prominence or representative character in the movement as establishing that the words referred to himself.
Held: The plaintiff’s appeal failed.
Viscount Simon LC said: ‘where the plaintiff is not named, the test which decides whether the words used refer to him is the question whether the words such as would reasonably lead persons acquainted with the plaintiff to believe that he was the person referred to’ and ‘In the present case the statement complained of is not made concerning a particular individual, whether named or unnamed, but concerning a group of people spread over several countries and including considerable numbers. No facts were proved in evidence which could identify the plaintiff as the person individually referred to. Witnesses called for the Appellant were asked the carefully framed question, ‘To whom did your’ mind go when you read that article?’, and they not unnaturally replied by pointing to the Appellant himself. But that is because they happened to know the Appellant as the leading member of the Society in this country, and not because there is anything in the article itself which ought to suggest even to his friends that he is referred to as an individual.’
Viscount Simon, Lord Chancellor, Atkin, Thankerton, Russell of Killowen, Porter LL
[1944] UKHL 1, [1944] AC 196, [1944] AC 116
England and Wales
CitedJoseph Le Fanu, And Edward Bull v Joseph Malcomson And Others HL 27-Jun-1848
Though defamatory matter may appear only to apply to a class of individuals, yet if the descriptions in such matter are capable of being, by inuendo, shown to be directly applicable to any one individual of that class, an action may be maintained by . .
CitedEastwood v Holmes 1860
An article in a newspaper describing leaden figures ‘reported to have been found in the Thames,’ and sold as antiquities, as being of recent fabrication, and stigmatizing their sale as an attempt at deception and extortion, held not actionable ; the . .
CitedBrowne v Thomson and Co 1912
A newspaper article stated that in Queenstown instructions were issued ‘by the ‘Roman Catholic religious authorities that all Protestant shop ‘assistants were to be discharged.’ 7 pursuers averred that they were the sole persons who exercised . .

Cited by:
CitedMorgan v Odhams Press Ltd HL 1971
The plaintiff claimed in defamation. The defence was that the words did not refer to the plaintiff and could not be understood to refer to him.
Held: The question as to what meaning words are capable of bearing has been described as a question . .
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 . .
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 . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Updated: 27 September 2021; Ref: scu.248499