Reference:  EWHC 561 (QB)
Court: Queen's Bench Division, Liverpool District Registry
Judge: Coulson J
Date of judgment: 17 Mar 2009
Summary: Defamation - Slander - Vulgar abuse - Actionability per se - Abuse of process - Real and substantial tort
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Appearances: Jacob Dean (Defendant) Richard Munden (Defendant)
Instructing Solicitors: E Rex Makin & Co for the Defendant; Kirwans for the Claimant
C sued D over a letter published in June 2007 to fellow members of the Executive Council of the West Wirral Conservative Association and words alleged to have been spoken by D to C’s wife and daughter in July 2007. D admitted publication of the letter and defended the libel claim on the basis of qualified privilege and justification. D denied speaking the words complained of (“Islamic terrorist”) and further defended the slander claim on the grounds that the words complained of were mere vulgar abuse, were not actionable per se and that the claim was in any event an abuse of the process of the Court, on the principle set out in Jameel v Dow Jones.
(1) Were the words complained of mere vulgar abuse?
(2) Were the words complained of actionable per se?
(3) Was the slander claim an abuse of the process of the Court?
Although the words were not mere vulgar abuse and were actionable per se, their publication, even if proved, in context, and in light of the lack of any evidence of reputation damage from the alleged publishees, would not amount to a real and substantial tort. The slander claim was therefore struck out, although C was permitted to rely on the facts alleged as a particular of malice.
This is an important addition to the corpus of Jameel. abuse case law, showing that even the day before trial, and even when the evidence is otherwise admissible on another issue, the Court will not shrink from striking out claims which come within the Jameel test for abuse.