C, a French national working in the UAE, brought five separate actions against three publishers in respect of five articles published between 20 January and 10 February 2014.
Each of the articles contained an account of events in the UAE, including proceedings against C’s British ex-wife for allegedly ‘kidnapping’ their son. The articles reported allegations said to have been made against C by his ex-wife, including of domestic abuse.
A trial of preliminary issues (meaning and reference for certain articles, ‘serious harm’ and Jameel abuse for all article) was held, which lasted two days. In this trial, significant witness evidence was adduced and C himself was required to attend in order to give oral evidence.
Warby J accepted the Defendants’ submissions that Parliament, in passing section 1(1) of the Defamation Act 2013, had done more than merely raise the threshold of seriousness discerned in the common law by Tugendhat J in Thornton v Telegraph Media Group Ltd  EWHC 1414 (QB). The new test of ‘serious harm’ was a question of subjective fact, not merely the objective tendency of the words to cause harm.
However, Warby J found that the allegations made in four of the articles had indeed caused or were likely to cause serious harm to C’s reputation. In doing so, Warby J decided against taking into account other publications to the same or similar effect in order to assess serious harm, relying upon the rule in Dingle v Associated Newspapers Ltd  AC 371.
The Ds appealed against this decision. The C, though seeking to uphold the judge’s decision, argued by a Respondent’s Notice that the Warby J could and should have found in C’s favour on the proper approach to serious harm.