Meaning decision in Dyson v C4

A ruling on meaning has been handed down in the long-running litigation between companies in the Dyson Group and the broadcasters Channel 4 and ITN.

In the decision by HHJ Lewis, handed down on 27 February 2024, the Court held that the Broadcast by the defendants, which was a news item first published on Channel 4 News on 10 February 2022, bears defamatory meanings of the claimant companies. These are that there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the claimants were responsible for the abuse and exploitation of workers, and the persecution of a whistle-blower, at ATA, one of their supplier companies located in Malaysia, and that they tried to cover up the allegations and shut down public criticism.

The Court also determined that the Broadcast conveys a statement of opinion, being that the claimants have not lived up to their advertised standards of ethics and corporate social responsibility.

The Claimant companies had sought to argue that the primary allegations against them were of complicity in the abuse of ATA workers and the treatment of a whistleblower, in the sense of actual knowledge and involvement, and that the allegations in the Broadcast were factual.

The decision is the third in these proceedings, following earlier rulings by Nicklin J and the Court of Appeal on the question of whether the claimant companies were referred to by the Broadcast. The Court also determined that the defendants should pay the costs of an amendment application made following the striking out of the claimants’ primary case on reference by Nicklin J, but before their successful appeal on that issue to the Court of Appeal.

Adam Wolanski and Gervase de Wilde of 5RB, instructed by SMB, act for the defendants.