Reference:  EWHC 700
Court: Queen's Bench Division
Judge: Eady J
Date of judgment: 31 Mar 2010
Summary: Defamation - Libel - Defamatory meaning - CPR 53 PD 4.1 - Whether words complained of are capable of bearing the meanings pleaded in the Particulars of Claim - Whether words complained of are capable of bearing any meaning defamatory of the Claimant
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Appearances: Adam Speker KC (Defendant)
Instructing Solicitors: Reynolds Porter Chamberlain LLP for D; Simons Muirhead & Burton for C;
C, a friend of Sir Ian Blair sued D, the publisher of the Daily Mail, over an article published in the newspaper and online entitled “Met Boss in new ‘Cash for a friend’ storm”. C complained that the article would be understood to bear two defamatory meanings: that he had corruptly exploited his friendship with Sir Ian Blair to obtain an improper payment of a five-figure sum from public funds; and that he had, on behalf of his company, agreed to act as Sir Ian Blair’s image consultant under a ‘vanity contract’ knowing that his company had no relevant knowledge or experience, thus improperly obtaining payment for work that his company was not competent to carry out.
D issued an application for a ruling as to whether the words complained of were capable of bearing either or both of those meanings, or any meaning capable of being defamatory of C.
(1) Whether the words complained of were capable of bearing the meanings pleaded by C;
(2) If not, whether the words complained of were capable of bearing any meaning defamatory of C.
(1) The words were not capable of bearing either of C’s pleaded defamatory meanings which were far too high. Accordingly, both would be struck out.
(2) The words were capable of being defamatory of C. It was not for the Court to draft meanings for C and it would be for a jury to decide the actual meaning. But the court would not rule that the words were incapable of reflecting adversely upon C, merely because he was only portrayed as the recipient or beneficiary of favours rather than an active instigator on his own behalf.
A straightforward application of uncontroversial principles, this is perhaps only notable for being Associated Newspapers’ third consecutive successful meaning application (in addition to the group’s successful strike out application in Ali v Associated  EWHC 100 (QB)).