As to the issues between the parties:
(1) ‘Reference’ is determined objectively according to whether reasonable people would understand the words to refer to C. If so, it is not necessary for a claimant to prove that there were in fact such people: (1) – (2). All five articles referred to C: , ,.
(2) The meanings of the ‘i’ article were substantially the same as those found by Sir David Eady in respect of those published in The Independent: . The first AOL article bore C’s pleaded meaning except for the final seven words: . The second AOL article bore C’s pleaded meaning: .
(3) The issue under section 1 of the Defamation Act 2013, whether the words had caused or were likely to cause serious harm to the reputation of C, was determined in C’s favour in respect of each of the articles except the second AOL article: , , ,  and .
(4) The pursuit of the first AOL action was not an abuse of the court’s process according to the principles established in Jameel: [155(i)].
(5) It not having been established that the second AOL article had caused or was likely to cause serious harm to C’s reputation, there was no longer a cause of action. Accordingly, the issue of Jameel abuse did not arise: [155(ii)].
On the proper construction of section 1 of the Defamation Act 2013, Warby J held that:
On Issue A:
(i) By s.1(1), Parliament intended to and did provide that a statement is not defamatory of a person unless it has caused or will probably cause serious harm to that person’s reputation, these being matters that must be proved by the claimant on the balance of probabilities: .
(ii) The court is not confined, when deciding this question, to considering only the defamatory meaning of the words and the harmful tendency of that meaning. It may have regard to all the relevant circumstances, including evidence of what has actually happened after publication. Serious harm may be proved by inference, but the evidence may or may not justify such an inference: .
(iii) If a defendant maintains that the actual or likely harm to reputation is too slight to justify a claim it will usually be preferable for the issue under s 1(1) to be tried as a preliminary issue, rather than by way of a striking out or summary judgment application: .
(iv)As to whether the point in time from which the court is to judge whether a statement ‘is likely to’ cause serious harm is when the claim form is issued (as preferred by Bean J in Cooke v MGN Ltd) or when the issue is determined, the preferable view was the latter: . It had to be accepted as a consequence of s 1 that the status of a publication may change from non-defamatory to defamatory or from defamatory to non-defamatory: .
On Issue B:
(v) the ‘rule in Dingle’ remains good law in the changed environment following the 2013 Act. Subject to s.12 Defamation Act 1952, other publications cannot be admitted into evidence for the purposes of reducing or limiting damages with reference to the seriousness of injury to reputation: .
(vi) C’s application to strike out parts of the defences of IPL and ESL would be struck out as contrary to the rules in Dingle and Scott v Sampson: [190(i)].
By way of some general comments on the procedure that should henceforth be adopted, Warby J observed that:
(a) As a general rule, where tried as preliminary issues, meaning and harm should be tried together: .
(b) Where defendants raise a threshold question, such as s.1(1) ‘serious harm’, it will generally be not only unnecessary to require them to plead a Defence before determination of that issue but it may be unwise owing to the risk of costs:  – .
(c) Warby J also offered some thoughts on the content of written evidence and the circumstances in which oral cross-examination of witnesses might be appropriate in trials of ‘serious harm’ as a preliminary issue.