Myroft v Sleight: 1921

The plaintiff, a trawler skipper sailing out of Grimsby, was a member of the Grimsby Fishermens’ Trades Union. A committee member was the defendant. The plaintiff was among those voting for a strike, and an unofficial strike was called. The defendant was said to have visited the owner’s offices asking for a ship to go to sea and to break the strike.
Held: The words were defamatory. McCardie J said: ‘It seems curious at first sight that the plaintiff should assert the words to be defamatory. He was a free citizen. He was entitled to earn his living and to pursue his calling as a skipper. All that the defendant had alleged was that the plaintiff had been to the docks (which were a perfectly lawful thing to do) and had asked for a ship . . Yet I conceive that an ordinary member of a trade union may claim that the duty of honesty and loyalty rests upon him . . I imagine that it would not be defamatory merely to say of an ordinary trade unionist that he had left his union or that he had openly acted against the wishes of his union. It should not be held defamatory to charge a man with independence of thought or courage of opinion or speech . . But a charge of trickery or of underhand disloyalty or of hypocrisy is a very different matter . . Hence I find that the words here spoken by the defendant were upon the circumstances of this case defamatory. They were spoken of a man who had voted for the strike and supported the strike . . The slander was regarded by all who heard it as an imputation on the plaintiff’s honour as a straightforward man’
and ‘A person is defamed . . when words have been spoken or written which injure or tend to injure that person’s reputation or to bring him into odium, ridicule, or contempt . . But . . in what minds is it that the reputation must have been diminished? To what persons is it that the plaintiff must have been brought into odium, ridicule or contempt?’
After citing Clay v Roberts and other cases, he continued: ‘These cases seem to show that the words complained of must be such as would injure the plaintiff’s reputation in the minds of ordinary, just and reasonable citizens’.


McCardie J


(1921) 90 LJKB 883

Cited by:

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 . .
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 . .
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 . .
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 . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Updated: 15 May 2022; Ref: scu.416809