Press release on tackling extremism in universities was a statement of opinion


Re: Butt v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2017] EWHC 2619 (QB)

The Court held that the press release by the Home Office, on tackling extremism in universities, did characterise the claimant as a hate speaker and extremist, and the reasonable reader would draw the obvious inference that he promoted ideas defined as “poisonous”. The words complained of were deemed to be a statement of opinion on the claimant’s views. In the wider context, whether someone was a ‘hate speaker’, an extremist or someone whose ideas students needed protection from was held to be a matter of opinion. Similarly, the Court considered that it was not necessary for the defendant to have stated the basis for the comment with such clarity that the reader could make his own assessment of the statement’s validity. It was sufficient if the subject matter on which the defendant was commenting was indicated. The statement complained of indicated in general terms the basis of the opinion that were the views of the claimant voiced in the public domain.

Lorna Skinner was involved in this case.