The Claimant, an MP and formerly the Secretary of State for Defence, complained that the Defendant, a British businessman, defamed him by an interview he gave to the broadcaster Sky. The Claimant sued in respect of a broadcast of the interview on Sky News (“the broadcast”) and the Defendant’s words as contained in a website posting at Sky News’ website (“the website article”). The broadcast contained part only of the remarks attributed to the Defendant in the interview than the website article.
The Claimant complained that the defamatory meaning of the broadcast and the website article was:
“…that reprehensibly and dishonourably, although he was uniquely in a position to do so, the Claimant had failed to speak out with the truth in order to debunk the supposedly baseless Allegations made publicly against the Defendant, the gravity and discredit of which omission was reflected by the fact that, if the Claimant did not attend court voluntarily in the United States to exonerate the Defendant, then the Claimant would be compelled by legal process to attend.”
The Claimant argued that that was the natural and ordinary meaning of the interview as it was given, particularly in the light of the general knowledge concerning the allegations made against the Defendant at the time, but additionally such a meaning arose by way of innuendo at least in the minds of interested readers who had been following the allegations made against the Defendant.
The Defendant argued that the words complained of bore no defamatory meaning, alternatively any defamatory meaning failed to pass the test for a threshold of seriousness as set out in Thornton v Telegraph Media Group Ltd  1 WLR 1985. Evidence was not admissible in relation to the determination of the natural and ordinary meaning. If the Claimant needed to establish, by evidence, knowledge of particular readers, then that had to be done by proof of the innuendo meaning; it could not be done through so-called “general knowledge” to support a natural and ordinary meaning.