Full case report
Jameel & Another v Times Newspapers Ltd (CA)
Reference  EWCA Civ 983;  EMLR 665
Court Court of Appeal
Judge Sedley, Longmore, Kay LJJ
Date of Judgment 21 Jul 2004
Defamation – Libel – Meaning of words complained of – Chase ‘level 2’ and ‘level 3 meanings’ – Pleadings – Whether article capable of being defamatory of corporate claimant
The Claimants sued on an article published in the Sunday Times under the headline “Car Tycoon ‘linked’ to Bin Laden” which named Yousef Jameel and referred to his involvement and that of his family in owning and running Hartwell plc, the second Claimant. The Defendant contended that the article was incapable of bearing the meanings attributed to it by the Claimants, that it was incontrovertibly true in the only defamatory meaning which it was capable of bearing of the first Claimant, and that it was incapable of defaming the company. It applied for summary judgment accordingly. At first instance Gray J ruled out the first Claimant’s higher (Chase ‘level 2’) meaning but dismissed the Defendant’s application for summary judgment; he also struck out the second Claimant’s claim altogether. The Claimants appealed.
(1) whether the article was capable of bearing the first Claimant’s meaning (‘there are serious or substantial grounds for suspecting … that he is associated with Osama bin Laden in the connection with terrorism etc…’) or only a lesser meaning of ‘sufficient grounds to enquire etc…’;
(2) whether the article was capable of bearing the company’s meaning, or any meaning defamatory of it.
(1) allowing the appeal, the article was arguably capable of bearing the first Claimant’s higher meaning;
(2) dismissing the Hartwell appeal, the article was incapable of bearing the company’s meanings or any meaning defamatory of it: the article did not suggest that the company was itself implicated in the wrongdoing or suspicion of wrongdoing attributed to the individual.
The judgment of Sedley LJ is notable for the following:
(1) his encouragement of a new practice whereby claimants should set out alternative meanings in their pleadings (explicitly endorsed by Longmore LJ );
(2) his tentative – and obiter – view on what he regarded as a question left unresolved by the CA in Bennett v News Group Newspapers Ltd  EMLR 860, viz. whether it is right to allow a defendant to justify a level 3 meaning by reference only to the bare fact of assertions made by others. As he put it at para. 30, that would ‘place a premium upon formulating slurs as level (iii) allegations and defending them unembarrassed by the otherwise general restraint on repeating the allegations of others.’
Peter Carter-Ruck & Partners for the Claimants
More from 5RB
5RB is the pre-eminent set in the area for handling defamation, privacy, contempt and data protection matters. Interviewees praise the set for having great depth and quality of counsel, and note that it boasts many of the top barristers in the field. Get the lowdown here.
New 22nd Edition of Clerk & Lindsell on Torts, published by Sweet & Maxwell. Further info here.