Hayward v Thompson

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtCourt of Appeal (Civil Division)
Judgment Date22 June 1981
Judgment citation (vLex)[1981] EWCA Civ J0622-3
Date22 June 1981
Docket Number81/0264

[1981] EWCA Civ J0622-3






Royal Courts of Justice.


The Master of The Rolls

(Lord Denning)

Sir George Baker and

Sir Stanley Rees


Jack Arnold Hayward
Plaintiff (Respondent)
John William McWean Thompson


Christopher House


The Sunday Telegraph Limited
Defendants (Appellants)

LORD RAWLINSON, Q.C., LORD CAMPBELL, Q.C. and MR. DAVID EADY (instructed by Messrs. Oswald Hickson, Collier & Co.) appeared on behalf of the Plaintiff (Respondent).

MR. ANDREW BATESON, Q.C. and MR. PATRICK MILMO (instructed by Messrs. Simmons & Simmons) appeared on behalf of the Defendants (Appellants).


This libel action is an aftermath of the tragic story of Mr. Jeremy Thorpe—a man of great charm—a politician of much skill—who was in his day the leader of the Liberal Party in Parliament.


It is a tragic story because it all flows from an allegation made by a Mr. Norman Scott. That man alleged that he had had a homosexual relationship with Mr. Thorpe. If there was ever such a relationship it was many years ago. It should have been erased and forgotten long since. But even so, one can well see that, if it became public knowledge, Mr. Thorpe's political career would be ruined and much harm done to the Liberal Party.


In 1975 this man Mr. Scott was walking with his dog on Exmoor. An airline pilot, Mr. Andrew Newton, came in close. He shot the dog, but not Mr. Norman Scott. Mr. Newton was charged with unlawful possession of a firearm. He was convicted and sent to prison. In the court Mr. Scott made an outburst. He alleged that he had had a homosexual relationship with Mr. Thorpe.


This allegation excited the attention of the journalists of Fleet Street. Their excitement was enhanced when Mr. Newton came out of prison. He alleged that he had been hired as an assassin to murder Mr. Scott. He had been paid, he said, £5,000 to do it, but instead of shooting Mr. Scott, he shot the dog. At once speculation in Fleet Street was rife: Who were the "conspirators"? Who hatched the plot? Who paid Mr. Newton £5,000? Where did the money come from?


The journalists soon discovered that an investigation had been ordered by the Director of Public Prosecutions: that the police were making inquiries: and were interviewing people connected with it. Further information was obtained surreptitiously from someone or other. As a result some journalists tried to interview Mr. Jack Hayward. I must say something about him. He is a man of the highest character and reputation. In 1978 he was only 54. He was born in Wolverhampton in 1923. At the age of 18 in 1941 he joined the Royal Air Force. He became a pilot and was on active service in South-Bast Asia, being awarded the Burma Star. After the war he went into his father's business: and at the age of 28 he went to the United States to start its operations there. He succeeded well. He saw great potentialities in the Bahamas Islands, then British. He developed the Grand Bahama. By his own abilities and enterprise, he accumulated great wealth. But he remained intensely loyal to this country. In "Who's Who" his recreations are recorded as "Promoting British endeavours mainly in sport, watching cricket, amateur dramatics, preserving the British landscape, keeping all things bright and beautiful and British". His home here was at "Lyndhurst", Warainglid, in Sussex: and in the Grand Bahama at Freeport.


He used his money to support many good causes. They included the bringing back of the s.s. "Great Britain" from the Falkland Islands to Bristol; the acquisition of Lundy Island and its transfer to the National Trust; and support of the Wildfowl Trust.


It was in connection with Lundy Island that Jack Hayward first met Jeremy Thorpe. They became great friends. Their wives too. Their correspondence is in the papers. Fulsome letters from Jeremy Thorpe, telling of his meetings with the great, of the political scene, and asking for money for the Liberal Party to fight election after election. Jack Hayward gave £150,000 for the 1970 election, and £40,000 and £10,000 for the 1974 election. Then £10,000 in 1975. Jeremy Thorpe asked for those two cheques of £10,000 to be made payable to a friend of his called Nadir Dinshaw in Jersey. He called it an external account which was to be used so as to avoid difficulties raised by the law as to financing parliamentary elections. Jack Hayward did not know Nadir Dinshaw from Adam. He trusted Jeremy Thorpe completely—that it was a legitimate way of contributing towards election expenses.


On Thursday or Friday, 6th or 7th April, 1978 Jack Hayward left his home at "Lyndhurst", Warninglid, for the Bahamas. His wife drove him to the airport. When she got back, she found that this had happened (I quote from a contemporary letter of Mr. Hayward to Mr. Thorpe):


"The day I left England for Freeport, four men appeared at Lyndhurst asking my whereabouts and refusing to give their names. They arrived in two separate cars. That afternoon, a small private plane ominously circled the house six times and then flew off southwards, presumably towards Shoreham". Mr. Hayward added this in evidence about that day:


"My wife was puzzled. My wife 'phoned me, in great distress, wondering who they were".


Mr. Christopher House


Now one who was interested was Mr. Christopher House, the Crime Correspondent of "The Sunday Telegraph". On the 7th April he got hold of a good deal of information about the police inquiries. He was told it by "an informant". He decided to make a story of it for the issue of "The Sunday Telegraph" of the 9th April, 1978. He wrote an article which in its original form, he says, accurately represented what his "informant" told him. But the sub-editor, he says, altered it in some material particulars and in so doing changed the meaning of it. It would have been very illuminating if the court could have seen Mr. House 's notebook. It would contain, I presume, the note of his conversation with the "informant", and the article as he originally wrote it before it went to the sub-editor. But it has not been produced. This was his evidence about it:


"(Q) So we have an alteration after you had written your story? (A) Yes, Sir. (Q) And you were unable to produce here the original piece of writing you did in the offices of 'The Sunday Telegraph', so that we could see what you had actually written? (A) Yes, Sir. (Q) That has got lost, too, has it? (A) Well, the original story—I don't know what's happened to it. I assume that's got lost".


Sunday, 9th April, 1978


On Sunday, 9th April, 1978 the article appeared in "The Sunday Telegraph". It was published on the front page. The editor so decided. The important thing to notice is that it did not mention Mr. Hayward by name. It was headed in large letters:


"Two more in


Scott affair


By CHRISTOPHER HOUSE, Crime Correspondent


"The names of two more people connected with the Norman Scott affair have been given to the police. One is a wealthy benefactor of the Liberal party and the other is a businessman from the Channel Islands.


"Both men, police have been told, arranged for a leading Liberal supporter to be 'reimbursed' £5,000, the same amount Mr. Andrew Newton alleges he was paid to murder Mr. Scott.


"Mr. Scott, a former male model, once claimed he had a homosexual relationship with Mr. Jeremy Thorpe, the former Liberal leader. Mr. Thorpe has repeatedly denied the claim.


"The new names were made known to police only during the past two weeks. Inquiries are being made and it may be some time before they are interviewed." Visit to islands


"Police have been told that some time last year the benefactor flew to the Channel Islands where he had a meeting, arranged several days before, with a business friend living there.


"During the meeting he was allegedly handed £5,000. He then returned and later paid the money to a leading Liberal supporter, either directly or through another source.


"Last night the officers investigating the Scott affair, Det. Chief Supt. Michael Challes and Det. Supt. David Greenhough, were not available for comment.


"Both officers, based at Bristol police headquarters, have continued a policy of not making statements since the investigation was ordered seven months ago by Mr. Thomas Hetherington, the Director of Public Prosecutions…"


You will notice there the name of Chief Supt. Michael Challes. He gave evidence: he said that he was possessed of information on similar lines to that in the article, but that the article was not entirely accurate. He said: "I am not happy with the word 'connected'—and what that portrays in my mind, there. I did not know about the 'reimbursement'".


Seeing that the information was so largely accurate, it must have been obtained by the "informant" surreptitiously from someone closely in touch with the police. The "informant" passed it to Christopher House. He made it into a story for "The Sunday Telegraph". The sub-editor altered it in such a way as to change its meaning. Later we will consider what its meaning was.


The impact of that article of the 9th April, 1978


Many read the article. In England Sir Peter Scott did so. He said that the words "One is a wealthy benefactor of the Liberal party" conveyed to him Mr. Jack Hayward. They did likewise to a Mrs. Cowper who gave evidence. In the Bahamas Mr. Hayward's daughter and son-in-law read it and thought it referred to him. But the most telling evidence came from Mr. Hayward himself. He said that in the...

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