West Law Report

No defamatory meaning

Posted in Times Law Report by mrkooenglish on February 2, 2009

From The TimesJanuary 15, 2009

No defamatory meaning
Court of Appeal
Published January 15, 2009
Freeguard and Another v Marlet Homes Ltd

The words “Let me know if he is abusive to you” were not in their ordinary and natural meaning capable of bearing any defamatory meaning or innuendo.

The Court of Appeal (Lord Justice Sedley, Lord Justice Keene and Lady Justice Smith) so stated on December 4, 2008, when dismissing the appeal of Roger Freeguard from the dismissal on February 5, 2008, by Judge Mackie, QC, sitting as a judge of the Queen’s Bench Divison, of an action by Mr Freeguard and his wife, Margo Ann Freeguard, who did not appeal, claiming damages for defamation against the defendant, Marlet Homes Ltd.

LORD JUSTICE SEDLEY said that in separate litigation concerning the defendant’s lessees, a complimentary slip was produced in court written to a messenger by the defendant’s employee containing “Let me know if he is abusive to you”.

On seeing that document the claimants sued the defendant for defamation.

The judge struck out the action on the basis that those words were not capable of constituting defamation. Also, the parties had not realised that the claimant could not bring an action on a document produced in court.

Nevertheless, looking at the context and the circumstances under which the document-came to light, the words written on the slip were not capable of bearing a defamatory meaning and there was no innuendo.

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