Emails about departure of former head of British Council in Italy not defamatory

Mr Justice Saini finds two of three emails not actionable as defamatory

Mr Justice Saini today dismissed claims by Paul Sellers, the former Country Director of the British Council in Italy, that two emails (of three complained of) sent by staff at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the British Council were defamatory of him at common law.

An allegation of misconduct was made against the Claimant by a person working at the British Embassy in Rome.  The allegation was investigated by the British Council. The Claimant subsequently left his post and has brought proceedings in the Employment Tribunal.  The three emails complained of were sent either in connection with the investigation or with the Claimant’s subsequent exit from his post.

The Claimant’s case that two of the emails, which referred to his departure from the British Council, meant that there were grounds to suspect him of misconduct were “conjecture” and “not founded in the words themselves”.

In respect of a third email sent by a senior member of staff at the Rome embassy, the Judge rejected the Claimant’s pleaded meaning and accepted the First Defendant’s case as to a meaning of, in summary, there being reasonable grounds to suspect misconduct by the Claimant.  The claim in respect of that email continues.

The judgment is available from the ‘Files‘ link below.

5RB’s Kate Wilson appeared on behalf of both defendants, instructed by the Government Legal Department.