Sir James Dyson has failed in a libel action against the Mirror newspaper over an article which suggested the domestic goods magnate took a ‘screw your country’ decision when he moved his corporate HQ to Singapore.
Giving judgment in Sir James Dyson v MGN Ltd, Mr Justice Jay criticised the ‘volumnious skirmishes in solicitors’ correspondence’ and noted that the case ‘has generated an excessive and disproportionate amount of documentation’.
Dyson brought the claim over a 2022 article by columnist Brian Reade which asserted that he was a bad role model for children. Dyson told the court that the article’s attack was ‘highly distressing and hurtful’.
The Mirror defended the publication on the grounds of honest opinion.
Finding for the newspaper, the judge ruled that the article was based on truth. He could not accept Dyson’s description of the move to Singapore as being merely being a relocation of two senior executives. ‘That significantly understates the reasons for, and saliencey of, the move.’ Further, while the columnist was selective of the facts on which he based his opinion, there was no obligation for the selection of such facts to be fair and balanced. Such a requirement ‘would have important ramifications for free speech,’ the judge said. ‘A journalist would struggle to say anything potentially controversial without conducting assiduous research… It would also place an unattractive burden on the court in having to make a judgment as to the facts which must be included.’
In the article, Reade was providing ‘in his no doubt inimitable style’, his opinion on Dyson’s action that, by moving part of his business to Singapore ‘he has hardly cast a vote of confidence in UK plc’, the judge found. The line ‘screwed the country’ was merely Reade’s take ‘how people would or might envisage’ Dyson’s actions.
The judge also found that Dyson could not demonstrate financial loss from the publication, as required by the 2013 Defamation Act. The events commented upon were ‘very much old news’ and most people would have made up their minds on the issue. A 2019 article in the Guardian, for example, ‘would have to be regarded as more damaging,’ than the Mirror’s supposedly light hearted piece.
The claim was dismissed.
Justin Rushbrooke KC and Chloe Strong, instructed by Schillings, appeared for Dyson. Adrienne Page KC, Ben Gallop and Samuel Rowe, instructed by MGN Ltd, for the Mirror.