1. Jay J granted the applications sought by the defendants.
Each of the claimants needed to establish a “good arguable case” in respect of all of the elements of a libel claim in this jurisdiction. The first defendant had accepted that the L’Espresso articles were published in England and Wales, and the judge found that the claimants had a good arguable case that the Il Fatto articles were published here too – albeit to a very limited extent.
But although the claimants also had a good arguable case that the L’Espresso articles referred to and made serious allegations against them, only the third claimant could satisfy that standard in respect of all four of the Il Fatto articles. Jay J was not satisfied that any of the articles referred to the first claimant, and held that the second claimant only had a good arguable case on reference and defamatory meaning in respect of the 9 November 2019 article.
In any event, none of the claimants could demonstrate a good arguable case on serious harm for the purposes of s.1 Defamation Act 2013.
Jay J’s finding that the first claimant had only been referred to in the L’Espresso articles – publication of which in England and Wales had been quite limited – coupled with his conclusion that it had not, for the purposes of s.1(2) Defamation Act 2013, demonstrated to the requisite standard “serious financial loss” due to publication in this jurisdiction, meant that the first claimant failed at this hurdle.
Regarding the second claimant, the limited publication in England and Wales of the L’Espresso articles, and of the single Il Fatto article in which he featured, likewise meant that he had failed to establish a good arguable case on serious harm against the defendants.
The third claimant had ceased trading in May 2019, and the evidence supporting its claim to have been attempting to re-establish itself in London between then and October 2019 was “extremely thin”. Therefore, the judge did not accept that the third claimant had a trading reputation in England and Wales at the time that the articles were published. Jay J held that even if this had been otherwise, the third claimant was far from establishing to the requisite standard that it had suffered serious reputational harm in this jurisdiction for the purposes of s.1(1), Defamation Act 2013, let alone “serious financial loss” for the purposes of s.1(2).
2. Because the first claimant had failed on the serious harm issue, the question of where its centre of interests was did not strictly speaking arise.
However, Jay J considered it nonetheless, and concluded that the first claimant’s centre of interests was, on balance, in England and Wales. Again, the standard that the first claimant had to meet was a “good arguable case”. Because the judge was satisfied that the first claimant’s being registered in this jurisdiction was “for a sound commercial reason which had nothing to do with this litigation”, that its evidence as to the conducting of its business in London could not “regarded as untrue”, and that it was a different legal person to the third claimant (whose centre of interests had never been in England and Wales), the first claimant met that standard.