Lewis v Daily Telegraph Ltd; Rubber Improvement Ltd v Daily Telegraph Ltd; Rubber Improvement Ltd v Associated Newspapers Ltd

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtCourt of Appeal
JudgeLORD JUSTICE HOLROYD PEARCE,LORD JUSTICE DAVIES,MR JUSTICE HAVERS
Judgment Date04 Apr 1962
Judgment citation (vLex)[1962] EWCA Civ J0404-4

[1962] EWCA Civ J0404-4

In The Supreme Court of Judicature

Court of Appeal

Before:

Lord Justice Holroyd Pearce

Lord Justice Davies and

Mr Justice Havers

Between:
John Lewis
Plaintiff (Respondent)
and
The Daily Telegraph Limited
Defendants (Appellants)
Rubber Improvement Limited
Plaintiffs (Respondents)
and
The Daily Telegraph Limited
Defendants (Appellants) (Consolidated)
And between:
John Lewis
Plaintiff (Respondent)
and
Associated Newspapers Ltd.
Defendants (Appellants)
Rubber Improvement Limited
Plaintiffs (Respondents)
and
Associated Newspapers Ltd. (Consolidated)
Defendants (Appellants)

MR NEVILLE FAULKS. Q. C. and MR H. DAVIDSON (instructed by Messrs Simmons & Simmons) appeared on behalf of the Appellants The Daily Telegraph Limi ted.

MR NEVILLE FAULKS. Q. C. and Mr DAVID HIRST (instructed by Messrs Swepstone Walsh & Son) appeared on behalf of the Appellants Associated Newspapers Ltd.

MR HELENUS MILMO. Q. C. and MR COLIN DUNCAN (instructed by Messrs 2effertt Heard & Morley Lawson) appeared on behalf of the Respondents.

LORD JUSTICE HOLROYD PEARCE
1

These are two separate appeals by two Defendants from the verdicts of juries and Judgments entered thereon in two separate actions for damages for libel. The Plaintiffs in both cases are Rubber Improvement Ltd. and Mr Lewis, its Chairman and Managing Director. The Defendants are in one case the owners of the Daily Telegraph and in the other the owners of the Daily Mail.

2

The aggregate amount of the Judgments obtained by the Plaintiffs against the two newspapers is £217,000. It is contended by both Defendants that the verdicts should be set aside and Judgment entered for the Defendants or alternatively a new trial ordered on the ground that in each case there was misdirection and the sum awarded was out of all proportion to the facts.

3

Against the owners of the Daily Telegraph the Plaintiff Lewis obtained Judgment for £25,000 and the Plaintiff Company for £75,000. Two days later against the Daily Mail in respect of a similar libel published on the same day the Plaintiffs obtained Judgment for £17,000 and £100,000 respectively.

4

The Plaintiff Company carries on business through itself and its subsidiaries in. the manufacture of textiles, rubber shoes and other commodities. Its issued capital is £1,000,000.

5

The libel in the first action was published on the front page of the Daily Telegraph on the 23rd December, 1958, and reads as follows: "Inquiry on Firm by City Police. Officers of the City of London Fraud Squad are inquiring into the affairs of Rubber Improvement Ltd. and its subsidiary companies. The investigation was requested after criticisms of the chairman's statement and the accounts by a shareholder at the recent company meeting. The chairman of the company which has an authorised capital of £1 million is Mr John Lewis, former Socialist M. P. for Bolton".

6

In the second action the libel to which I will refer later was published in the Daily Mail on the same day and is in very similar terms.

7

On the same day Mr Lewis issued a statement, copies of which were sent to the newspapers and to the Commissioner of Police. That statement was published in the Daily Telegraph on the next day, the 24-th December. The statement reads: "Statement by Mr J. Lewis. Inquiry Denial. Mr John Lewis, chairman of Rubber Improvements Ltd., issued the following statement yesterday: 'In certain editions of the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail this morning statements were made to the effect that the City of London Fraud Squad were inquiring into the affairs of the company. At no time have I, or the company, or any of its officers or employees been approached by the Fraud Squad or any other police officers in relation to the affairs of the company. The Daily Telegraph went on to say that the investigation was requested after criticism of the chairman's statement and accounts by a shareholder at the recent company meeting. The register of members of the company discloses that the criticism above referred to came from a shareholder who held only 100 shares and in respect of which he became a registered holder only one week before the meeting. Writs have to-day been issued against both newspapers concerned".

8

On the same day each Plaintiff issued separate writs for libel against each newspaper, but the actions of Mr Lewis and the Company were later consolidated against each newspaper.

9

Mr Lewis's Statement of Claim against the owners of the Daily Telegraph / sets out the libel and alleges that it is defamatory in its natural and ordinary meaning. Paragraph 4 raises an innuendo, as follows: "By the said words the Defendants meant and were understood to mean that the Plaintiff had been guilty or was suspected by the police of having been guilty of fraud ordishonesty in connection with the affairs of the said Company and/or its subsidiaries and/or that he had caused or permitted the affairs of the said Company and/or its subsidiaries to be conducted fraudulently or dishonestly or in such a way that the police suspected that the affairs of the said Company and/or its subsidiaries had been so conducted and/or that the Plaintiff was unfit to hold either of his said offices. Particulars pursuant to R. S. C. Order 19 Rule 6 (2). (1) The Plaintiff repeats paragraph 1 hereof. (2) The plaintiff will rely on the tone and heading of the said article. (3) It is generally known that the City Fraud Squad investigates serious cases of company fraud. (4) The Plaintiff will rely on Section 188 of the Companies Act, 1948".

10

That is clearly intended as an alleged extension of the ordinary meaning of the words and if proved would constitute a separate cause of action from the libel itself (Watkin v. Hall 3 Queen's Bench, page 396 and per Lord Atkin in Sim v. Stretch 52 Times Law Reports, page 669). Wot only is it pleaded in the words normally used to allege such an extension, but it also sets out particulars headed by a reference to Order 19 Rule 6 (2), which deals with such extensions.

11

The Statement of Claim alleges no special damage.

12

The Statement of Claim of the Plaintiff Company is similar mutatis mutandis. The Defense did not deny that the words were defamatory in their ordinary meaning. That admission was plainly right. The fact that a man is under enquiry from the Fraud Squad is detrimental to his reputation' But the extended meaning alleged in paragraph 4 was denied.

13

The Defense justified the ordinary meaning since in the Defendants' contention it was true that the Fraud Squad were enquiring into the affairs of the Company. The Defendants did not, however, seek, and have never sought, to justify the extended meaning assigned to the words by the innuendo

14

At the trial the Plaintiffs called no witnesses other than Mr Lewis. He contended that the libel was not justified since there had been no "proper" enquiry or investigation. After the publication of the libel he was, he said, "inundated with telephone calls, personal visits from literally hundreds of people asking him what the meaning of it was".

15

It appeared from the cross-examination of Mr Lewis that from a few days after the date when the libel appeared the Plaintiffs' Solicitors were engaged in a long correspondence with the police authorities. They were constantly contending that there was no ground for any enquiry and trying to expedite a police pronouncement that the Plaintiffs had done nothing wrong. They offered inspection of all their books and documents and asked the police authorities to bring to a rapid end such inquiries as they were making. They reiterated that an atmosphere of suspicion was detrimental to the Company's business. The police authorities, however, were not to be hurried. It was not until the 16th August, 1960, ever 1/12 years after the date of the original libel, that the Commissioner of the City Police wrote to the Plaintiffs' Solicitors as follows: "Rubber Improvements Limited. With reference to the investigations which have been carried out by the Metropolitan and City Police Company Fraud Department into certain matters relating to the above-mentioned company, and adverting to the previous correspondence with you in connection therewith, I have to inform you that after careful consideration of all the facts and the information available it is not proposed that any criminal proceedings should be instituted by the police as a result of such investigations". The letter from the Plaintiffs' Solicitors in reply dated 23rd August, 1960, indicates the nature of the correspondence that had passed between the Plaintiffs and the police authorities over the 1/12 years. It reads: "Rubber Improvement Ltd. We are in receipt ofyour letter of the 16th August, 1960, on which we have taken our clients instructions. It is observed that in connection with investigations involving the above mentioned Company which has been the subject of considerable correspondence, that it is not proposed that any criminal proceedings should he instituted by the police. Would you please advise us if this means that in the event of it being apparent that offences under the Official Secrets Act have been committed by police officers when dealing with this matter, that it is not proposed that the police should take any criminal proceedings against those responsible for the commission of such offences. Please let us have an answer on this point. The inference to be drawn from your reference to careful consideration of all the facts and the information available, no doubt with the object of justifying the delay, is not acceptable. As long ago as the 31st of December, 1958, in a letter which we wrote to you, it was stressed that there was not the slightest prima facie evidence of an offence of any kind, nor at any time since then, despite continuous pressure, have you indicated as to what might be the nature of any such offence. Indeed, when Chief...

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