McAlpine 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 a senior Conservative of child sexual abuse.
Held: The text contained an innuendo that the claimant was involved, and was defamatory. As to innuendo: ‘An innuendo meaning (in the technical legal sense) is something more than a meaning that can be implied from the words complained. It is a meaning which can be implied from the words complained of, but only if the reader also knows other facts (which are not general knowledge). These are generally called extrinsic facts.
In respect of an innuendo meaning, a claimant must, in addition to identifying the meaning complained of, prove the extrinsic facts relied upon and prove that these facts were known to readers . . The claimant will have been defamed in the minds of those readers, but not in the minds of the readers who did not know the extrinsic facts.’
The reader wold have identified the claimant from the words, and understood ‘the words ‘innocent face’ as being insincere and ironical. There is no sensible reason for including those words in the Tweet if they are to be taken as meaning that the Defendant simply wants to know the answer to a factual question.’

Tugendhat J
[2013] EWHC 1342 (QB)
England and Wales
CitedJones v Skelton PC 1963
(New South Wales) Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest discussed how words subject to a claim in defamation should be read: ‘In deciding whether words are capable of conveying a defamatory meaning the court will reject those meanings which can only emerge as . .
CitedLewis v Daily Telegraph Ltd HL 1964
Ascertaining Meaning of Words for Defamation
The Daily Telegraph had published an article headed ‘Inquiry on Firm by City Police’ and the Daily Mail had published an article headed ‘Fraud Squad Probe Firm’. The plaintiffs claimed that those articles carried the meaning that they were guilty of . .
CitedFulham (orse Fullam) v Newcastle Chronicle and Journal Ltd and Another CA 1977
A local newspaper circulating in Teesside, where the claimant had been appointed deputy headmaster of a school, published an article in 1973 saying of the claimant that he was a former Roman Catholic priest who had left his parish in the Salford . .
CitedChase 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 . .
CitedFlood v Times Newspapers Ltd SC 21-Mar-2012
The defendant had published an article which was defamatory of the claimant police officer, saying that he was under investigation for alleged corruption. The inquiry later cleared him. The court was now asked whether the paper had Reynolds type . .
CitedJeynes 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 . .
CitedAjinomoto Sweeteners Europe Sas v Asda Stores Ltd CA 2-Jun-2010
The claimant sold a sweetener ingredient. The defendant shop advertised its own health foods range with the label ‘no hidden nasties’ and in a situation which, the claimant said, suggested that its ingredient was a ‘nasty’, and it claimed under . .
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 . .

Cited by:
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 . .
See AlsoMcAlpine 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 . .
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 . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Updated: 31 October 2021; Ref: scu.510090