Thornton 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 words related to the claimant’s profession and integrity. In the context of business libels, the phrase ‘hatred ridicule and contempt’ is too narrow. However, whatever definition of ‘defamatory’ is adopted, it must include a qualification or threshold of seriousness, so as to exclude trivial claims. This explains why in defamation cases damage can be presumed. In this test the level was the same for business as for other libels. Tugendhat suggested a new definition of defamation as ‘The publication of which he complains may be defamatory of him because it substantially affects in an adverse manner the attitude of other people towards him, or has a tendency so to do.’ In this case that threshhold was not met.
A threshold of seriousness, phrased in terms of substantiality, was introduced. As to the connection between this approach and the common law presumption of damage Tugendhat J explained it: ‘There is a further point to be noted if my conclusion in paras 90 and 92 is correct. If this is so, then it explains why in libel the law presumes that damage has been suffered by a claimant. If the likelihood of adverse consequences for a claimant is part of the definition of what is defamatory, then the presumption of damage is the logical corollary of what is already included in the definition. And conversely, the fact that in law damage is presumed is itself an argument why an imputation should not be held to be defamatory unless it has a tendency to have adverse effects upon the claimant. It is difficult to justify why there should be a presumption of damage if words can be defamatory while having no likely adverse consequence for the claimant. The Court of Appeal in Jameel (Yousef)’s case [2005] QB 946 declined to find that the presumption of damage was itself in conflict with article 10 (see para 37), but recognised that if in fact there was no or minimal actual damage an action for defamation could constitute an interference with freedom of expression which was not necessary for the protection of the claimant’s reputation: see para 40.’

Tugendhat J
[2010] EWHC 1414 (QB), [2010] EMLR 25, [2011] 1 WLR 1985
European Convention on Human Rights
England and Wales
See AlsoThornton v Telegraph Media Group Ltd QBD 12-Nov-2009
The claimant sought damages for an article in the defendant’s newspaper, a review of her book which said she had falsely claimed to have interviewed artists including the review author and that the claimant allowed interviewees control over what was . .
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 . .
CitedGillick 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: . .
CitedBerezovsky and Glouchkov v Forbes Inc and Michaels CA 31-Jul-2001
The claimant sought damages from the defendant for a magazine article claiming that he was involved in organised crime in Russia. The defendants appealed against the striking out of elements of the defence suggesting lesser meanings. Was meaning a . .
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 . .
CitedSouth Hetton Coal Company Ltd v North Eastern News Association Limited CA 1894
The plaintiff company sued for defamation in respect of an article which alleged that it neglected its workforce. The defendants contended that no action for libel would lie on the part of a company unless actual pecuniary damage was proved.
CitedDrummond-Jackson v British Medical Association CA 1970
The court considered whether an article published in the British Medical Journal was capable of bearing a meaning defamatory of the plaintiff dentist. The article made an attack upon the plaintiff’s technique for anaesthesia.
Held: Words may . .
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 . .
CitedClay v Roberts 1863
Pollock CB considered the requirements for words to be considered defamatory and said: ‘There is a distinction between imputing what is merely a breach of conventional etiquette and what is illegal, mischievous, or sinful.’ . .
CitedTournier v National Provincial and Union Bank of England CA 1924
The court considered the duty of confidentiality owed by a banker to his client. Bankes LJ said: ‘At the present day I think it may be asserted with confidence that the duty is a legal one arising out of contract, and that the duty is not absolute . .
CitedParmiter v Coupland And Another 1840
In an action for libel, the Judge is not bound to state to the jury, as matter of law, whether the publication complained of be a libel or not ; but the proper course is for him to define what is a libel in point of law, and to leave it to the jury . .
CitedYoussoupoff v MGM Pictures CA 1934
The plaintiff (herself a Princess) complained that she could be identified with the character Princess Natasha in the film ‘Rasputin, the Mad Monk’. On the basis that the film suggested that, by reason of her identification with ‘Princess Natasha’, . .
CitedBrady v Norman QBD 26-May-2010
The claimant appealed against refusal of the Master to extend the 12 month limitation period in his proposed defamation claim. The allegations related to a dispute at an Aslef barbecue, and later of forgery. The claimant was a former General . .
CitedMyroft 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 . .
CitedDee v Telegraph Media Group Ltd QBD 28-Apr-2010
The newspaper sought summary judgment in its defence of the defamation claim. The article labelled the claimant as the world’s worst professional tennis player. The paper said he had no prospect of succeeding once the second article in the same . .
CitedLonzim Plc and Others v Sprague QBD 11-Nov-2009
The court asked whether any damages recovered by the claimant might be so small as to be totally disproportionate to the very high costs that any libel action involves.
Held: Tugendhat J said: ‘It is not enough for a claimant to say that a . .
CitedSotiros Shipping Inc v Sameiet; The Solholt CA 1983
The seller had failed to deliver the vessel he had sold by the delivery date. The buyer cancelled and requested return of his deposit, also claiming damages because the vessel was worth $500,000 more on the delivery date than she had been when the . .
CitedEcclestone v Telegraph Media Group Ltd QBD 6-Nov-2009
The defendant newspaper published a diary piece about the claimant, who alleged that it meant that she: ‘was disrespectful and dismissive of the McCartneys and Annie Lennox to the point of being willing to disparage them publicly for promoting . .
CitedKarako v Hungary ECHR 28-Apr-2009
In an election campaign an opponent of the claimant politician had said in a flyer that he was in the habit of putting the interests of his electors second. The applicant accused his opponent of criminal libel, but the prosecutor’s office terminated . .
CitedBank of Boston Connecticut v European Grain and Shipping Ltd (‘The Dominique’) CA 1987
. .
CitedJohn v Guardian News and Media Ltd QBD 12-Dec-2008
The court is entitled to take account of the nature of the hypothetical reasonable reader, in this case the ‘educated readership’ of the Guardian Weekend section, when deciding the impied meanings in a statement said to be defamatory. Tugendhat J . .
CitedDerbyshire County Council v Times Newspapers Ltd and Others HL 18-Feb-1993
Local Council may not Sue in Defamation
Local Authorities must be open to criticism as political and administrative bodies, and so cannot be allowed to sue in defamation. Such a right would operate as ‘a chill factor’ on free speech. Freedom of speech was the underlying value which . .
CitedPfeifer v Austria ECHR 15-Nov-2007
The right to protect one’s honour and reputation is to be treated as falling within the protection of Article 8: ‘a person’s reputation, even if that person is criticised in the context of a public debate, forms part of his or her personal identity . .
CitedBerkoff v Burchill and and Times Newspapers Limited CA 31-Jul-1996
The plaintiff actor said that an article by the defendant labelling him ugly was defamatory. The defendant denied that the words were defamatory.
Held: It is for the jury to decide in what context the words complained of were used and whether . .
CitedPolly Peck PLC v Trelford CA 1986
The plaintiffs complained of the whole of one article and parts of two other articles published about them in The Observer. The defamatory sting was that Mr Asil Nadir (the fourth plaintiff) had deceived or negligently misled shareholders, . .
CitedCassell and Co Ltd v Broome and Another HL 23-Feb-1972
Exemplary Damages Award in Defamation
The plaintiff had been awarded damages for defamation. The defendants pleaded justification. Before the trial the plaintiff gave notice that he wanted additional, exemplary, damages. The trial judge said that such a claim had to have been pleaded. . .
CitedHasselblad (GB) Ltd v Orbison CA 1985
In the course of proceedings brought by the European Commission against Hasselblad, Mr Orbison wrote a letter to the Commission upon which the appellant then sued for damages for libel. The court considered the dangers of national and European . .
See AlsoThornton v Telegraph Media Group Ltd CA 29-Mar-2010
. .

Cited by:
See AlsoThornton v Telegraph Media Group Ltd QBD 4-Feb-2011
The defendant sought permission to amend its defence to the claim in malicious falsehood. . .
See AlsoThornton v Telegraph Media Group Ltd QBD 27-May-2011
The defendant appealed against an order refusing trial by judge alone on the basis that the application had been made out of time. . .
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 . .
See AlsoTelegraph Media Group Ltd v Thornton CA 22-Jun-2011
. .
See AlsoThornton v Telegraph Media Group Ltd QBD 26-Jul-2011
The claimant alleged defamation and malicious falsehood in an article published and written by the defendants. She complained that she was said to have fabricated an interview with the second defendant for her book. An interview of sorts had now . .
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 . .
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 . .
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 . .
CitedZC v Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust QBD 26-Jul-2019
Defamation/privacy claims against doctors failed
The claimant, seeking damages for alleged defamation, now asked for the case to be anonymised.
Held: The conditions for anonymisation were not met. The anonymity would be retained temporarily until any time for appeal had passed.
As to . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Defamation, Torts – Other, Human Rights

Leading Case

Updated: 31 October 2021; Ref: scu.416772