Elliott appeal refused.

In the case of Richard Rufus v Paul Elliott EWHC 3355 (QB) a text was published between two friends who had fallen out in The Sun newspaper. The text stated “Ur a stupid man n*****…You dog, Ur history my friend.” Elliott then issued a press release in which although he didn’t name him the imputation was that it was the Claimant who had released the text.

It inferred that Rufus had behaved disloyally by releasing the text message which included the offensive word used in the Sun Newspaper headline. The Claimant denied it was him who publicised the text message:

The Claimant’s case was that the words complained of meant

  • “By way of innuendo” that the claimant, “as a former friend and business colleague had acted dishonourably and betrayed the Defendant and deliberately harmed his reputation by making public a private SMS Text communication sent by the Defendant to the Claimant which was inappropriate in that it contained a term that is widely knows (sic) as being derogatory of the Black community, and which contradicted the Defendant’s role as a Kick it Out trustee causing his resignation from it.”

Dingemans J rejected an application made by the Defendant that the claim should be struck out on the ground that the words complained of were incapable of bearing a meaning defamatory of the Claimant. He considered the press release was capable of being defamatory because the act of disclosing it was arguably wrong and disloyal.

Elliott appealed that right-thinking members of society could not conclude someone’s conduct was reprehensibly disloyal when it led to the public exposure of wrongdoing by another, him. Also,because the conduct imputed to the Claimant was lawful it could not be defamatory to say that Rufus had engaged in it.

The Court of Appeal rejected arguments were capable of imputing disloyalty or un trustworthiness to the Claimant and agreed with Sir Stephen Sedley who had rejected the Appeal on paper he had said:

  • “One can test it by asking whether people would now think worse of the claimant had the allegation been true. It is by no means certain that the answer would be no. The fact that such indiscretions are regularly leaked (or sold) to the media does not mean that to be a source is morally inconsequential. It may be as lofty an act as the D now submits or as base an act as C contends. It’s for a court to say.”

The matter now proceeds to trial.

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