Judgment handed down in George v Cannell & Anor

Saini J dismisses claims in libel, slander per se and malicious falsehood

The claim was brought by Ms George against her former employer, Ms Lynn Cannell of Lynn Cannell Associates, a recruitment agency in Essex specialising in recruitment for estate agents and property companies.

Ms George sued in libel, slander per se, and malicious falsehood, in respect of four publications alleged to have been made by Ms Cannell in January 2019. The publications were all said to contain the primary allegation that Ms George had acted in breach of her contractual, post-termination restrictions by soliciting clients of her former employer. By the time the claim came to trial, it was common ground between the parties that Ms George’s terms of employment contained no such contractual restrictions.

Following a four-day trial, Saini J dismissed the claims. The libel and slander claims for which publication was proven did not succeed solely because they did not satisfy the serious harm requirement under section 1(1) of the Defamation Act 2013. The claim in malicious falsehood under s.3(1) Defamation Act 1952 was not made out on the basis that Ms George did not prove, taking into account the facts extraneous to the words complained of which existed at the time of publication, that pecuniary damage was likely to result from publication. The judge did not find that special damage had been caused by the proven publications. However, the judge found that the allegations were false and had been published maliciously.

William Bennett QC and Gemma McNeil-Walsh for the Claimant, instructed by Thomson Heath & Associates.

John Stables for the Defendants, instructed by Brabners.

The judgment can be found here.