C claimed in slander and libel against D in respect of minutes of a private meeting of the trustees of a Hindu charity. The only publishees were those present and the Charity Commission which had requested a copy of the minutes. The minutes recorded concerns about C in respect of conflict of interest, accusations of criminality and slander against other trustees and the creation of substantial work for the trustees by his refusing to attend meetings. C was removed as a trustee following decision at that meeting.
D argued that pleaded meanings were not sustainable and, more significantly, that in any event C had not pleaded serious harm from the words complained of (the need to make out serious harm being a requirement of s.1 of the Defamation Act 2013). In the circumstances, D argued, there could not have been serious harm to reputation caused: the trustee publishees were all aware of the allegations, and had removed C from his position, so that the minutes could make no difference to C’s reputation among them. The provision of a copy to the Charity commission could not reasonably be said to give rise to any significant impact on his reputation.
The judge held that there was no indication from C that he could overcome the ‘serious harm’ hurdle. Such evidence as there was of damage to C’s reputation within his community was as likely to be attributable to C’s removal as a trustee as to the words complained of in the meeting’s minutes.
Further argument in respect of qualified privilege – the presence of which for each occasion of publication was accepted by the court – and malice was therefore not addressed in any detail. Neither was a point of application to amend to plead republication addressed at any length, the proposed amendment being unparticularised.
The claim was struck out.