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

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

Related Member(s):
Sara Mansoori
Related Practice Area(s):
Media and Information Law
Court:
,

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 what meaning(s) the words and photographs complained of bear; and 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 Judge held that 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:

  1. 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;
  2. is shocking and disturbing.

The Judge held that meaning (i) is an allegation of fact and (ii) is an opinion.

Sara Mansoori was involved in this case.