(1) The Judge was right to hold that the words plainly meant that people could get angry at C’s conduct, and that no reasonable jury could find otherwise. The hypocrisy meaning was at most an additional imputation.
(2) The single meaning rule did apply to honest comment cases. That was established by binding Court of Appeal authority. However, it did not follow that the shut up and hypocrisy meanings were alternatives. The correct analysis was not that a jury could either find the words to bear the shut up meaning or the hypocrisy meaning. Rather, a jury could find either that the words bore only the shut up meaning or that they bore that meaning and the hypocrisy meaning.
(3) The Judge was right to dismiss the case.
(a) As to the hypocrisy meaning
– The engine of the Jameel jurisdiction is not only the overriding objective but also the need to keep freedom of expression and the protection of reputation in proper balance. This will especially be so where a defence of honest comment is advanced by a responsible journalist, and the proper balance will be material when the court has to consider an honest comment defence.
– Accordingly, where a comment, honestly expressed in a media publication and grounded upon a sufficient factual basis, may reasonably be thought to carry an additional imputation which may not be so grounded, the defendant should not ordinarily be held liable for that imputation unless it was maliciously advanced.
(b) As to the underhanded concealment meaning, the Judge was right to conclude that the real sting of the mistaken reference to the £25,000 payment was that the profit had been made with the taxpayer’s help and not disgorged, and right to conclude that there was nothing left in that part of the claim.