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Court: Queen's Bench Division (Media and Communications List)

High Court rules on meaning in Sakho libel case

Sakho v World Anti-Doping Agency [2020] EWHC 251 (QB)

The claimant is a professional footballer who currently plays for Crystal Palace Football Club. He has brought a defamation claim against the World Anti-Doping Agency. This judgment addresses a preliminary issue as to the meaning of the words complained of by the claimant, but also as to whether the judge should determine the meaning only of the primary publications or also of certain republications.

The primary publications are emails to journalists at national newspapers, whereas the republications are the printed newspaper articles, which include the wording of the emails. 

Held: The meanings of the Articles are relevant to the determination of whether publication of the words complained of has caused or is likely to cause serious harm to the claimant’s reputation; and determining their meanings at this stage is in accordance with the overriding objective. The judge went on to find that the meaning of the articles bore a different meaning to the emails.

High Court declines to hear Bitcoin libel claim due to pending proceedings abroad

Wright v Granath [2020] EWHC 51

In a judgment handed down on 16 January 2020, the High Court has declined jurisdiction over a libel claim arising from the disputed identity of “Satoshi Nakamoto”, the pseudonym used by the founder of digital cryptocurrency Bitcoin.

Applying Article 27 of the Lugano Convention (which regulates jurisdiction over civil cases as between EU member states and EFTA states), the Court judged that proceedings issued in Norway by the English defendant before the English proceedings began involved the same cause of action. As such Article 27 required that the English court took the proceedings no further. The judgment offers guidance as to the application of international jurisdiction rules in the context of libel claims.

News article about Conservative Member made allegation of “strong grounds to suspect” anti-semitism

Lord Sheikh v Associated Newspapers [2019] EWHC 2947 (QB)

This claim concerned an article published by it on the Mail Online website on and after 15 August 2018 under the headline:

“EXCLUSIVE: Top Tory peer’s appearance at Corbyn’s ‘hate conference’ in Tunisia comes after YEARS of rubbing shoulders with Islamists, hate preachers and Holocaust deniers”.

Following pre-action correspondence, the parties agreed to a trial of preliminary issues in relation to the following:

1. what meaning(s) the words and photographs complained of bear; and
2. whether the words and photographs complained of, in the meanings found, are statements of fact or expressions of opinion.

Held: The article was essentially factual reporting of the claimant’s conduct, coupled with some express and implied conclusions about its significance.

The natural and ordinary meaning of the words and photographs complained of, in their context, is that the claimant has a long history of support for, or close association with, people and organisations that express or hold anti-Semitic and other extremist views and attitudes. Despite his attempts to explain it, the article:

i. provides strong grounds for suspecting that the claimant is secretly an anti-Semite who approves of and sympathises with Holocaust denial, Islamist jihad and hatepreaching, which he is prepared knowingly and actively to support;
ii. is shocking and disturbing.

Damages won for leaked allegations of corruption when Claimant had not been charged for any offences

ZXC v Bloomberg [2019] EWHC 970 (QB)

International businessman (identified as ZXC) wins damages and injunction for misuse of private information in important High Court judgment against Bloomberg LP arising from 2016 publication of article detailing leaked allegations of corruption/fraud from a law enforcement investigation, at a time when the Claimant had not been charged with any offences.  This judgment builds on and develops the principles in Richard v. BBC both in relation to the privacy rights of those under active criminal investigation and the appropriate remedies.  

Approach in determining whether statements of opinion met the serious harm threshold under the Defamation Act 2013, s 1

Morgan v Associated Newspapers Ltd [2018] EWHC 1725 (QB)

This was a libel claim brought by Steve Morgan CBE against Associated Newspapers Limited, the publishers of the Daily Mail, over an article that appeared in the print edition and (with some minor differences) also online on 24 Aug 2017 under the headline: “Building tycoons using staff discounts to snap up homes meant for families”. […]