QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL
B e f o r e :
| LIAM FOX
|- and -
Matthew Nicklin QC (instructed by DLA Piper) for the Defendant
Hearing date: 15 May 2013
Crown Copyright ©
Mr Justice Bean :
"We plan on calling Dr. Liam Fox and his pal Adam Werritty to give evidence in some of these ongoing legal disputes so they can tell the truth and so we can debunk these baseless allegations against me…[at this point there is an obvious "join", but with almost no pause]….It does warrant some pretty hard questions being asked and at some point they have to come forward and answer some of those tough questions. [another join without a pause]…..Now I am concerned myself that I shared a considerable amount of information with somebody who purported to be an advisor to the Minister, part of the Ministry of Defence. And clearly he wasn't. So I have no clue where that sensitive information has gone."
"(1) The Dubai businessman at the heart of Liam Fox's departure from government wants to force the former defence secretary and his friend and self-styled adviser Adam Werritty to answer questions in open court as to the exact nature of their much-criticised working relationship.
(2) Harvey Boulter, who had a meeting with Dr Fox brokered by Mr Werritty, intends to subpoena both men to appear as he counter-sues US technology giant 3M in the British courts.
(3) The Prime Minister had said that all questions about Mr Werritty, his numerous visits to the Ministry of Defence, his trips overseas, and business cards which claimed he was an adviser to Dr Fox, would be answered- but a Cabinet Office-led investigation left many dissatisfied.
(4) Dr Fox resigned as Defence Secretary on October 14, following weeks of questions and speculation.
(5) Speaking exclusively to Sky News, Mr Boulter said: "We plan on calling Dr Liam Fox and his pal Adam Werritty to give evidence in some of these ongoing legal disputes so they can tell the truth and so we can debunk these baseless allegations against me.
(6) "This will also shine a spotlight on some of the murkier side of politics and lobbying group, and some of its connections into the US.
(7) "For instance, Atlantic Bridge, Fox's so-called charity which looks like a political lobbying group, and some of its connections into the US.
(8) "I don't know what we will find at the moment but there are a lot of unanswered questions and until some of those questions get answered we will have to keep looking" he added.
(9) If Mr Boulter is successful it would be the first time Mr Werritty would be required to answer questions in public as to why he was given unprecedented access to the then Defence Secretary, and whether or not, as some have alleged, he was pushing a right wing Atlanticist foreign policy at Dr Fox's request.
(10) Mr Boulter said he felt "defrauded" by Mr Werritty's claim to be an advisor to Dr Fox.
(11) "It does warrant some pretty hard questions being asked, and at some point they have to come forward and answer some of those tough questions," he said.
(12) "I am concerned myself that I shared a considerable amount of information with somebody who purported to be an adviser to the minister, part of the Ministry of Defence and clearly he wasn't – and so I have no clue where that sensitive information has gone and I personally feel that I've been defrauded.
(13) Dr Fox has previously said he would be happy to travel to the US to speak in any legal action there.
(14) "They have stated they will be willing to come forth and give evidence in the US," Mr Boulter said.
(15) "I hope when they get there they can put their hand on the bible and tell the truth – and I suspect they will be forced to come if they do not do it willingly.
(16) Mr Boulter's company the Porton Group is currently in a legal battle with 3M bought MoD technology it was claimed could detect the MRSA superbug.
(16) Following the meeting between Dr Fox and Mr Boulter, it was reported that the businessman wrote two emails in which he threatened that the British Government could reconsider the knighthood granted to 3M's British chief executive if the case was not settled.
(17) On Monday, Mr Boulter claimed a victory in his fight with 3M when the High
Court in London found 3M was "in material breach of its obligation" under an agreement to actively market the MRSA test, Baclite
(18) "I am delighted that we have been vindicated in our attempt to force 3M to face up to their responsibilities," he said.
(19) "But the victims here are those infected with MRSA. A weapon in that fight was wrongfully abandoned by 3M.
(20) "This is a question of trust and honour which in my opinion seems to have been sadly lacking in 3M's behaviour.
(21) "The judge has made it quite clear that 3M did not live up to its promises," he added.
(22) Kevin Jones MP, Labour's shadow defence minister, responding to the news that Mr Boulter intends to subpoena both Liam Fox and Adam Werritty, said: "There are big, unanswered questions remaining over Liam Fox and Adam Werritty's activities.
(23) "It is regrettable that US courts rather than the UK Government may reveal the full facts. The Prime Minister's investigation was inadequate and there is much evidence which merits real scrutiny.
(24) "It is important that we understand what happened at one of the Government's most sensitive departments for the 18 months Dr Fox was in office, in order to be confident that similar activities will never take place again. The Government should have a full and thorough investigation".
'We plan on calling Dr Liam Fox and his pal Adam Werritty to give evidence in some of these ongoing legal disputes so they can tell the truth and so we can debunk these baseless allegations against me.
This will also shine a spotlight on some of the murkier side of politics and lobbying and we need to get into some of those aspects in a little more detail.
For instance, Atlantic Bridge, Fox's so-called charity which looks like a political lobbying group, and some of its connections into the US.
I don't know what we will find at the moment but there are a lot of unanswered questions and until some of those questions are answered we will have to keep looking.…
It does warrant some pretty hard questions being asked, and at some point they have to come forward and answer some of those tough questions.…
They have stated they will be willing to come forth and give evidence in the US.
I hope when they get there they can put their hand on the Bible and tell the truth – and I suspect they will be forced to come if they do not do it willingly".
"The said words meant and were understood to mean that reprehensibly and dishonourably, although he was uniquely in a position to do so, the Claimant had failed to speak out with the truth in order to debunk the supposedly baseless Allegations made publicly against the Defendant, the gravity and discredit of which omission was reflected by the fact that, if the Claimant did not attend court voluntarily in the United States to exonerate the Defendant, then the Claimant would be compelled by legal process to attend."
"5.1 Paragraph 3 above is repeated. [It was the same as paragraph 3 of this judgment, with the addition at the end of the words "These matters were well publicised in the national press."]
5.2 On 20 June 2011 the Guardian newspaper reported that the Defendant had been accused of blackmail by 3M. In particular, it was reported that the Defendant had sent two emails to 3M as part of settlement negotiations in respect of a legal dispute between Porton Capital, a company of which the Defendant was CEO, and 3M, and that 3M had alleged that those emails constituted blackmail.
5.3 In the emails the Defendant had put pressure on 3M to pay Porton Capital $30 million to satisfy Porton Capital's claim against 3M. In the first email, dated 18 June 2011, he had claimed that he had discussed the legal dispute with the Claimant, then Secretary of State for the Defence, at a meeting ("the Dubai meeting"), and implied that, as a result of that meeting, his demands were made with the Claimant's, and the government's, authority or approval. In particular, he alleged or implied that the Claimant had told him that the issue of George Buckley's knighthood, the CEO of 3M, would be imminently discussed by the Cabinet and that the outcome of that discussion would be affected by 3M's response to the Defendant's demand for money. It was also reported that the Defendant had sent a second email pressing 3M for a response in which he claimed that the Claimant expected a response from 3M by the following Sunday night.
5.4 3M had sued the Defendant for blackmail immediately following receipt of the emails. The US attorneys for 3M sent a copy of the proceedings to the Guardian newspaper, and as a result the Guardian publicised the allegations in an article of 20 June 2011. The Defendant sued 3M for libel.
5.5 The dispute between the Defendant and 3M received further publicity in the Guardian and other national media, including in articles published in the Guardian on 27 June 2011, 7 August 2011, 19 October 2011, 26 October 2011 and 7 November 2011. The Defendant actively sought publicity for his claims, including giving an interview to the BBC on 11 October 2011 in which he characterised the Claimant's version of the Dubai meeting as a "half-truth".
5.7 As a result of this publicity, the story was fresh in the public mind and it was well known to a large but unquantifiable number of viewers of the interview containing the words complained of and to readers of the report of that interview that the Claimant was the unique position of being able to "debunk" the Allegations, if they were false, because he could confirm the truth of the Defendant's story and specifically confirm that he (the Defendant) was, in writing the emails, merely acting as a conduit for a message for 3M from the government.
5.6 Such viewers and/or readers would have understood the words complained of to mean that the Claimant had acted dishonourably or reprehensively in not coming forward publicly to debunk the false, and extremely serious, allegations against the Defendant."
The law on meaning applications
"The legal principles relevant to meaning … may be summarised in this way: (1) The governing principle is reasonableness. (2) The hypothetical reasonable reader is not naïve but he is not unduly suspicious. He can read between the lines. He can read in an implication more readily than a lawyer and may indulge in a certain amount of loose thinking but he must be treated as being a man who is not avid for scandal and someone who does not, and should not, select one bad meaning where other non-defamatory meanings are available. (3) Over-elaborate analysis is best avoided. (4) The intention of the publisher is irrelevant. (5) The article must be read as a whole, and any "bane and antidote" taken together. (6) The hypothetical reader is taken to be representative of those who would read the publication in question……"
"The ordinary and natural meaning of words may be either the literal meaning or it may be an implied or inferred or an indirect meaning: any meaning that does not require the support of extrinsic facts passing beyond general knowledge but is a meaning which is capable of being detected in the language used can be a part of the ordinary and natural meaning of words. See Lewis v. Daily Telegraph Ltd.  AC 234. The ordinary and natural meaning may therefore include any implication or inference which a reasonable reader guided not by any special but only by general knowledge and not fettered by any strict legal rules of construction would draw from the words. The test of reasonableness guides and directs the court in its function of deciding whether it is open to a jury in any particular case to hold that reasonable persons would understand the words complained of in a defamatory sense".
The words complained of in the broadcast: ordinary and natural meaning
The words complained of in the broadcast: innuendo meaning
The words complained of in the website article: ordinary and natural meaning
The words complained of in the website article: innuendo meaning