QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
MEDIA AND COMMUNICATIONS LIST
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL
B e f o r e :
| (1) ARNOLD MBALLE SUBE
|(2) JEANNE MBALLE SUBE
|- and -
|(1) NEWS GROUP NEWSPAPERS LTD
|(2) EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS
David Price QC & Robin Hopkins (instructed by David Price QC) for the First Defendant
Christina Michalos (instructed by Express Newspapers) for the Second Defendant
Hearing date: 14 May 2018
Crown Copyright ©
MR JUSTICE WARBY :
(1) Defamation. On the trial of the preliminary issues I find that the articles complained of did not convey any defamatory factual imputations about the claimants. They did contain or imply a number of derogatory comments or opinions about them. But none of those comments or opinions was, considered individually, sufficiently harmful to either claimant's reputation to satisfy the serious harm requirement laid down by s 1 of the Defamation Act 2013. It would seem to follow that the libel claims fail, but that is subject to one issue, explained at  below.
(2) Serious harm. I have been able to reach the above conclusions without the need for an amended pleading on this issue. If the case were to continue the pleaded case on serious harm would need amendment, but it is not irremediable as a pleading.
(3) The Comment Posts. I decline to strike out the whole of paragraphs 5 and 8 of the Particulars of Claim, as sought by the defendants. But I strike out the sentence in each of those paragraphs which alleges that the Comment Posts "contained words that are defamatory of the Claimants", under CPR 3.4(2)(b). I also direct that the Particulars of Claim be amended so as to make it explicit that there is no defamation claim in respect of the Comment Posts.
(4) Harassment. I grant the application for permission to amend this claim to encompass the Comment Posts.
(5) Exemplary damages. Paragraph 13 of the Particulars of Claim is struck out as disclosing no reasonable basis for such a claim.
(6) Malicious falsehood. The amendment to the claim form is disallowed pursuant to CPR 17.2 and paragraphs 14 to 19 of the Particulars of Claim and the relevant parts of the prayer for relief are struck out, for failure to disclose any reasonable basis for a claim.
(7) EA. The amendment to the claim form is disallowed pursuant to CPR 17.2, and paragraphs 28 to 35 of the Particulars of Claim and the relevant parts of the prayer for relief are struck out; both measures are taken on the grounds that the statements of case disclose no reasonable basis for a claim. The proposed amendments are refused, for the same reason.
(8) DPA. I decline to disallow the amendment to the claim form, or to strike out the claim as pleaded in the Particulars of Claim, which in my judgment disclose a reasonable basis for a claim. But I stay that claim for the time being. So far as News Group is concerned, I do so pursuant to DPA s 32(4). So far as the Express is concerned, I do so under the inherent jurisdiction and the Court's case management powers. I refuse permission to make the proposed amendments to the DPA claim, on the grounds that these fall a long way short of the applicable pleading standards, and are likely to obstruct the just disposal of the action.
(1) Those at paragraphs 13(2) and (5) above are without prejudice to the claimants' right to reformulate their case and, in particular, to seek permission to proceed with a reformulated claim for exemplary damages. That is because these decisions are based on pleading deficiencies only. But I should not be taken to invite, let alone encourage, an attempt to refresh allegations for which the claimants have so far failed to identify any reasonable factual basis.
(2) I am striking out the malicious falsehood claim (13(6) above) because the pleading of falsehood and malice is deficient, but also because the damage claim as pleaded is fanciful. No doubt a clear case on falsity could be framed, I am very doubtful that a legitimate plea of malice could be formulated, but cannot rule it out altogether. For the reasons explained later, however, I am unable to see any basis on which a viable case on damage could possibly be advanced. That is regardless of the limitation issue, which would also need to be overcome.
(3) The striking out of the malicious falsehood claim does not embrace paragraph 10 of the Particulars of Claim, which contains "Particulars of Falsehood". In the absence of a claim for malicious falsehood I am not sure what function this paragraph has in the statement of case. It is superfluous to the libel claims, with which its relationship remains unclear to me. But I leave it untouched at this stage because nobody has yet sought to strike it out. It might perhaps form a legitimate part of a reformulated DPA claim (as to which, see below). But if it is to stay on the record for any purpose it will need attention, as I indicated in the course of argument.
(4) The decisions at 13(8) above are made without prejudice to the defendants' right to seek summary judgment on the existing DPA claims; and the right of the claimants to seek permission to amend, to advance reformulated claims for breach of s 4(4) of the DPA. As to the former, the stay that I am imposing does not prohibit a defence application. As to the latter, it is plainly arguable at the least that the offending publications involved the processing by the defendants of personal data relating to the claimants, in respect of which the defendants owed the duty imposed by s 4(4). It seems likely that legitimate claims for breach of that duty can be formulated, in addition to the s 10 claim that I have left on the record. Whether such claims would succeed is another matter, on which I express no view. Nor do I express a view on whether such claims would have to be stayed pursuant to s 32(4). That must be for another day. I do not believe it is possible, nor that DPA s 32(4) obliges me, to stay claims which have yet to be clearly formulated.
(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.
(7) … the court should rule out any meaning which, 'can only emerge as the produce of some strained, or forced, or utterly unreasonable interpretation …' ….
(8) It follows that 'it is not enough to say that by some person or another the words might be understood in a defamatory sense.
(9) In order to determine the natural and ordinary meaning of the statement of which the claimant complains, it is necessary to take into account the context in which it appeared and the mode of publication.
"69 … If the meaning … established … does not convey a serious defamatory imputation then the claim may, by reason of s.1(1), be vulnerable to being struck out without more ado.
70. If, on the other hand, the meaning so established conveys a serious defamatory imputation … then an inference of serious reputational harm ordinarily can and should be drawn accordingly.
73. … at a meaning hearing … [t]he seriousness of the reputational harm is … evaluated having regard to the seriousness of the imputation conveyed by the words used: coupled, where necessary or appropriate, with the context in which the words are used (for example, in a newspaper article or widely accessed blog).
79. Whether in any given case the imputation is of sufficient gravity as of itself to connote serious reputational harm … should therefore normally be capable … of being relatively speedily assessed at the meaning hearing."
"41 … a statement which tends to lower a person, or would be likely to affect them adversely, in the esteem or opinion of a section of society only is not a defamatory statement. To put it another way, the standards to be applied in assessing whether the offending statement is damaging to reputation in a way that is legally actionable must be collective standards of society generally, that are shared and agreed upon by society at large, and not just by a part of society.
46. The need for the values that are applied in deciding whether a statement is defamatory to be values shared by society at large – what might be termed the consensus requirement - has been emphasised in more recent authorities: see Ecclestone v Telegraph Media Group Ltd  EWHC 2779 (QB)  (Sharp J), Thornton v Telegraph Media Group (above), and Modi v International Management Group (UK) Ltd  EWCA Civ 937, - (Thomas LJ). Thornton provides a particularly clear example of the application of the consensus requirement. One allegation complained of by the claimant, a writer, was that she had given 'copy approval' to a source. This was a practice of which both she and the defendant strongly disapproved. The allegation was however held not to be defamatory. Tugendhat J held at  that 'the fact that the two parties to an action may both be members of a section of society holding particular views does not relieve the court of the obligation to try the case by the standards of society generally.' He concluded that by those standards it was not defamatory to attribute this practice to the claimant."
Fact or opinion
"The statement must be recognisable as comment, as distinct from an imputation of fact: Gatley on Libel and Slander, para 12.7. Comment is 'something which is or can reasonably be inferred to be a deduction, inference, conclusion, criticism, remark, observation, etc': Branson v Bower  EMLR 800, 12. The ultimate determinant is how the words would strike the ordinary reasonable reader: Grech v Odhams Press Ltd  2 WB 275, 313. The subject matter and context of the words may be an important indicator of whether they are fact or comment: Singh's case, paras 26 and 31."
1. The Claimants are not honest about their claim to housing and state benefits
2. The Claimants are arrogant about their entitlement to housing and benefits
3. The Claimants unreasonably refuse housing
4. The Claimants have abused the benefit system
5. The First Claimant has not paid state tax
6. The First Claimant is unemployed
"… in a claim for libel it is necessary that the claimant should set out word for word precisely those words which he alleges defame him, whether that is the whole of the text or, as is more commonly the case, an extract from a much larger text."
Wissa v Associated Newspapers Ltd  EWHC 1518 (QB)  (Tugendhat J) (cited in the notes to vol 1 of Civil Procedure 2017 at 53PD.10.) "The particular passages complained of should be clearly identified …": Gatley 12th ed para 26.12.
Application of principles
The Sun Articles
(1) The headline and meanings complained of are set out at  above, and the full text appears in the Annex, where I have emphasised in bold the text which represents expressions of opinion.
(i) Meaning 1 ("the Dishonesty Meaning") is a defamatory meaning of fact, the publication of which I am quite sure would cause serious harm to reputation, as it is an imputation of dishonesty contained in a national newspaper. But the article does not bear that meaning, or anything close to it. I note that no such meaning was complained of in the letter of claim. I see nothing in the article that imputes dishonesty, as opposed to "milking" or abuse of the benefits system: see below.
(ii) Meaning 2 ("the Arrogance Meaning") is plainly opinion. The article does bear something close to this meaning. The article is largely presented as fact, but it contains expressions of opinion. I have emphasised these in the Annex. The headline is one such. It expresses incredulity at the claimants' conduct as described in the article. The tone and presentation of the article as a whole imply disapproval of that conduct. Some third-party comments are reported in the article, which are clearly disapproving. In my judgment the article suggests that the claimants are "milking" the system, taking undue advantage of their welfare entitlements, obtaining sums which – though they are entitled to them – are excessive and undeserved, and behaving unreasonably over their housing. All these implied meanings are plainly opinion.
(iii) Meaning 3 ("the Unreasonable Refusal meaning") is conveyed by the article, but is an opinion.
(iv) Meaning 4 ("the Abuse Meaning"). I uphold this to the extent that it falls within the scope of the meanings I have identified at (ii) above. That is, abuse by taking advantage of the system, but in good faith. This is plainly an opinion.
(v) Meaning 5 ("the Tax Meaning") is a factual meaning, but is not borne by the article and is not defamatory anyway. There is nothing inherently discreditable in not paying tax, and I have not been presented with any argument as to why such an imputation should be considered defamatory at common law. Some might disapprove, under some circumstances. But this is not an imputation that is capable of lowering a person in the estimation of right-thinking people generally.
(vi) Meaning 6 ("the Unemployment Meaning") is also factual. It is conveyed by the article (the headline speaks of a "jobless couple"), but it is non-defamatory. Unemployment is, without more, a matter for sympathy not disapproval. I have not seen or heard any explanation of why I should regard it as a defamatory imputation at common law. It is not capable of lowering a person in the estimation of right-thinking people generally.
(2) ("Benefits dad's defiance"). Two meanings are complained of.
(i) Meaning 1 is "The Claimants over claimed housing benefits from the state". I agree that this is a meaning impliedly borne by this article, provided that it is understood in the sense that they took undue advantage of their entitlement, as opposed to making dishonest claims. This is an opinion.
(ii) Meaning 2 is "The Claimants were greedy when running up a £21,000 restaurant bill". This is a reasonable characterisation of a suggestion which does emerge from the article, that the Claimants had run up an excessive restaurant bill. This flows from the figure, and the impression of extravagance that is conveyed generally. The imputation of greediness is, again, an opinion.
(3) ("It's my right"). The claimants originally attributed to this article the same six meanings as are complained of in relation to article (1). My conclusions on the Dishonesty Meaning are the same as they are in that instance: it is a factual defamatory meaning, but not one borne by this article. There is nothing that suggests dishonesty as opposed to shameless abuse of the welfare system. The word "shameless" appears in the headline and is a fair summary of the gist of the story. This article does however bear the Arrogance Meaning. It is conveyed by the headlines, overall tone and presentation, and statements that Mr Sube "scoffed at" the offer of a 4- bedroom home, that and the "family" were "outraged" at the offer to put them up in a 5-bedroom property, and that they have "claimed they are being neglected". This article also bears the Unreasonable Refusal and Abuse meanings. The contention that it bears the Tax Meaning has been abandoned. The Unemployment Meaning is a factual meaning which the article does convey but which is not defamatory, for the reasons given above.
(4) ("He played the system and won"). The claimants attribute six meanings to this article. The first five are the same as meanings 1-5 complained of in relation to the article (1). As to these:
(i) My conclusions on the Dishonesty Meaning are the same in this instance. "Playing the system" is certainly a disapproving phrase, and the article uses the word "outrage", but this criticism does not in itself convey an imputation of dishonesty. Nor does the remainder of the article convey such a suggestion. The thrust of the article is conveyed by words and phrases such as "unfair" and "you should not expect to be bailed out", "Mr Sube has had a result".
(ii) This article does bear the Arrogance, Unreasonable Refusal, and Abuse meanings, subject to the qualifications I have mentioned already. These are conveyed by the headline, the overall tone, the use of the words "moaned", "whinging", "brazenly claimed … his family was being 'neglected' when their previous four-bedroom home felt too cramped", and from the words quoted at (i) above, and the words attributed to neighbours. As to the Tax Meaning, my conclusions are the same as they are in respect of Article (1).
(iii) The sixth meaning attributed to this article is that "The First Claimant is only employed for 10 hours a week and thereby fails to independently support himself and his family whilst claiming benefits and housing." This is a factual meaning borne by the article but it is not a defamatory meaning at common law. Some may disapprove of a person who behaves in this way, but by no means all will do so. It is not of itself disreputable by the standards of right-thinking people, to claim benefits whilst working for limited hours.
(5) ("Cul-de-spat"). The claimants advance the same meanings as they do in respect of Article (4). My conclusions are the same.
(6) ("Take your pick"). Six meanings are complained of. The first four are the same as meanings 1-4 in respect of Article (1). My conclusions are the same. In short, the Article does not bear the Dishonesty Meaning, which is a defamatory factual meaning. It does bear the Arrogance, Unreasonable Refusal and Abuse meanings, which are opinion. The fifth meaning attributed to the sixth article is "The First Claimant is only employed as a part-time nurse and thereby fails to independently support himself and his family whilst claiming benefits and housing." This is similar to the sixth meaning attributed to articles (4) and (5), and my previous conclusions on that meaning apply equally here.
(7) ("No more. Fed up council funding migrant dad …"). Four meanings are complained of. The first two are the Arrogance and Unreasonable Refusal meanings. I agree that the article bears those meanings, which are opinion. The article describes the claimants as "turning their noses up" at previous properties, and "whingeing". It refers to "officials" saying they "acted like they have 'more rights than anybody else'." The other meanings complained of are
(i) "3. The Claimants were housed for free upon arrival thereby unjustly obtaining housing benefits". The article does mean that the claimants were housed for free upon arrival, thereby obtaining housing benefits. The word "unjustly" is an opinion. I do not consider it to be implicit in the article. If it is, then it is an opinion about the system, which is not defamatory of the claimants, except to the extent it implies that they were abusing the system, which I consider is an implied meaning of this article. The graphic in particular conveys this.
(ii) "4, The Claimant had wrongly claimed entitlement to a gym/study excessive to their minimum actual needs". The written argument in support of this meaning is "references to gym & study etc". Mr Engelman did not develop this in oral submissions. The article certainly states that Mr Sube "uses one room as a gym/study in his current home". Otherwise, this complaint is baseless. There is no reference to any claim to be entitled to a gym/study, nor any evaluation of the merits of such a claim. The article is not capable of conveying the meaning that the claimants have "wrongly" claimed such an entitlement, which would in any event be an opinion.
(8) ("The Great British Rake Off"). This is a print version of the online article headed "Are they Serious?" The meanings complained of are identical. The only differences between the articles that are of any significance lie in the headlines. But the claimants' arguments on meaning do not rely on the headline as implying dishonesty. Rightly, in my view. Read in context, the imputation is one of abusing the system, not defrauding it. The claimants' argument in support of the Dishonesty Meaning focuses instead on details of the factual account contained in the article. In essence, the claimants' arguments are the same in respect of the print version as they are in relation to the online article. So are my conclusions.
(9) ("A house benefit for a king"). This is the front page headline of of an article which continues on pages 4 and 5, under the further headline "Fury at £238k taxpayer bill – Dun moanin?".
(i) The claimants originally treated these as separate articles, for the purpose of assessing meaning. That is contrary to Jeynes principle (5) and it has since been accepted that they must be read together. The relevant Annexes to the Particulars of Claim attributed the Dishonesty Meaning to the front page, but offered no meanings in relation to the inside pages, on the grounds that the claimants did not have a sufficiently legible copy. I agree with Mr Price that this is not an adequate excuse.
(ii) Now, however, the article is available and the claimants' Scott Schedule incorporates four meanings attributable to the inside pages. I treat this as an application for permission to amend. The meanings complained of are the Dishonesty, Arrogance, Unreasonable Refusal and Abuse Meanings. As before, I reject the first of these but accept the others, which remain expressions of opinion.
(iii) The Annex to the claimants' skeleton argument does not match the Scott Schedule. It goes further, and puts forward additional meanings. Try as I might, I have been unable to identify any corresponding draft pleading. I would not be prepared to grant permission to amend without a proper draft. I believe, however, that I can identify the gist of the additional meanings. They are "unjustly obtaining housing benefit", "housing excessive to actual needs", and "unemployed." The first does not go materially beyond the ones I have upheld; the second is a non-defamatory comment; and the third is a factual statement that is non-defamatory by common law standards.
The Express Articles
1. The Claimants should be the subject of public shame
2. The Claimants unreasonably refuse housing
3. The First Claimant is greedy
4. The First Claimant is unemployed
5. The First and Second Claimants are bad neighbours
6. The Claimants are not honest about their claim to housing and state benefits.
7. The Claimants are arrogant about their entitlement to housing and benefits
8. The Claimants have abused the benefit system"
(11) ("Shameless family of 10 …"). The article does not bear the Dishonesty Meaning. There is nothing in the article that suggests that the claimants, or either of them, have acted dishonestly. But this article does bear the other seven meanings complained of. The first two meanings are hardly disputed, and rightly so: the word "shameless" appears in the title, the article is about the claimants' refusal of housing, and the suggestion that they have unreasonably refused offers is clearly present. The Greed meaning derives from a quote in which Mr Sube denies being greedy. This in context implies the comment that he is. He is described in terms as "jobless". The article quotes a neighbour describing the family as "nightmare neighbours", making serious criticisms of nuisance caused by their inconsiderate behaviour; the article contains no "antidote" to this. The account of the family's approach to considering housing implies an arrogant, "entitled" attitude. The suggestion of abuse is implicit in the summary of their welfare history and allied with the description "shameless". The Unemployment Meaning is factual, but not defamatory. All the other six meanings are opinion.
(12) ("REVEALED …") The focus of this article is on the "splurging" of Mr Sube's £15,000 savings. It does not bear the Greed Meaning. Nor does it bear the Dishonesty Meaning, or the Deliberate Unemployment Meaning. The article expressly states that Mr Sube saved "what he thought would be enough" to enable him to study, and quotes him at length to the effect that he is a hardworking man. These points are not undermined by other text in the article. The Overspending Meaning is repetitious (overspending is by definition "excessive"), and a little unclear. I find that the article portrays Mr Sube has having acted in a foolish, profligate and self-indulgent way by spending savings of £15,000 in a matter of weeks, in an attempt to maintain the family's previous lifestyle. That flows from the evaluative and explanatory language used to describe the spending: "splurged … trying to keep up the lifestyle he had enjoyed in a posh Paris suburb ..." The meanings I have found contain facts, but the derogatory content is comment.
(13) ("Migrant dad-of-eight lands plush four-bed detached house property worth £425,000 – and YOU PAY"). The meanings complained of are the Greed Meaning, the Dishonesty Meaning, the Overspending Meaning and the Deliberate Unemployment Meaning. In my judgment, the article bears none of these meanings. It does bear the meanings that I have upheld in relation to Article (11), which are comment or opinion.
(14) ("I blew 15k in weeks, migrant splashed savings on arrival in UK".) The claimants complain of three meanings: the Overspending Meaning, the Deliberate Unemployment Meaning, and the Dishonesty Meaning. In my judgment the article does bear the meaning that on his arrival in the UK Mr Sube recklessly squandered savings of £15,000 on an unduly lavish lifestyle. This flows from the word "splashed" in the headline, the statement in the sub-headline that this happened "within weeks", and the first sentence, asserting that Mr Sube "blew his savings renting a big house ..." This meaning is opinion. The article does not bear any of the other meanings complained of. So far from suggesting that Mr Sube deliberately became unemployed the article says he "gave up his job as a warehouseman in France to study mental health nursing in the UK". There is no other suggestion of dishonesty.
(15) ("Shameless benefit migrant dad-of-eight wants more kids"). Again, the claimants' case is that the article bore the Overspending Meaning, the Deliberate Unemployment Meaning, and the Dishonesty Meaning. Again, I uphold the Overspending Meaning, to the extent that the article conveyed the opinions that. on his arrival in the UK Mr Sube recklessly squandered savings of £15,000. This flows from the use of wording the same as or similar to that of Article (13). Again, I reject the Deliberate Unemployment and Dishonesty Meanings. The wording used is similar to that of the previous article.
(16) ("Shameless French family-of-10 demand mansion: Benefits dad rejects 5-bed as 'too cramped'"). The claimants attribute two meanings to this article: the Unemployment Meaning, and a further meaning that "The Claimants were provided a previous 5 bedroom house paid for by housing benefit implying that the Claimants' modus operandi is to extract benefits unfairly". The article does bear the factual meaning that Mr Sube is not working; but the suggestion is that he is studying, which is not quite the same thing as "unemployed". In any event, that is not a defamatory imputation at common law, for reasons already given. The second meaning incorporates reasoning, which is contrary to principle and, as it happens unenlightening. The gist of this meaning seems to lie in its concluding words, referring to an "unfair modus operandi". That is self-evidently a comment. But I cannot uphold it, as I do not detect any such imputation in the article.
(17) ("Jobless migrants do not deserve British handouts"). This is on its face a comment piece. It starts as follows:
"A JOBLESS Cameroonian couple living in Luton say they have been 'neglected' because they want a bigger Council house
It is hardly as if Arnold and Jeanne Sube have been left homeless
In fact the local council has been absurdly generous. They live in a three-bedroom taxpayer-funded house and recently turned down the chance to move into a five bedroom property because, they claimed, it did not have enough storage. …".
Nine meanings are complained of.
(i) The Unemployment Meaning. The article does suggest that both claimants are unemployed, but this is a non-defamatory imputation.
(ii) "The Claimants are undeserving of benefits". A meaning borne by the article, which is (and could only be regarded as) comment.
(iii) "The Claimants were not homeless before receiving assistance." The argument is that this flows from the words I have emphasised in the quotation above. This is a wholly unreasonable interpretation. In context, the words relied on suggest that the claimants are unreasonably complaining, when they have been absurdly generously treated by the provision of publicly-funded housing.
(iv) "The Claimants did not support themselves since 2012." The article does not mean this. In any event such a meaning is not defamatory at common law. A failure to support oneself can be attributable to illness, disability, misfortune or other reasons. It is not, without more, conduct of which right-thinking people generally would disapprove.
(v) "The State has been supporting the Claimants who desist from doing so themselves." This goes beyond what is suggested by the article. But the article does say that the claimants have been supported by the state, and that the couple have "paid next to nothing into a system" which has "lavished them with handouts". It says they "refuse to go out to work". Expressions of disapproval follow. I find that the article bears the factual meaning that "The State has been supporting the claimants who refuse to go out to work." This is factual. But it is not by itself defamatory, because the right-thinking person does not think the worse of someone because they receiving benefits; and the mere fact of refusing to go out to work is not of itself discreditable. More is needed before a right-thinking person would think the less of someone for these reasons. There can be legitimate reasons for receiving benefits and refusing to work.
(vi) "The Claimants' conduct should not be tolerated by the British public." The article certainly does bear this meaning. It states in terms that the claimants' "appalling sense of entitlement cannot be tolerated", This meaning is (and could only be regarded as) opinion.
(vii) "The Claimants consider the British public responsible for their housing". I uphold a version of this meaning: the article does suggest that the claimants' behaviour with regard to their housing exhibits an "appalling sense of entitlement". This is opinion. Although it includes an imputation about the claimants' state of mind, that is clearly an inference from their behaviour.
(viii) "The Claimants consider the British public responsible for their housing to be heartless." I uphold a version of this meaning: The article says in terms that "if the Subes are so upset at being neglected by the supposedly heartless British Government …" This does mean that the Claimants consider the British Government's attitude to their housing requirements to be heartless. This is a factual meaning but in itself would be a neutral, non-defamatory meaning, so far as the claimants' reputations are concerned. The article further suggests, in my judgment, that the claimants unreasonably consider the British Government's attitude to their housing requirements to be heartless. That meaning, if complaint were to be made of it, would clearly qualify as an opinion.
(ix) "The Claimants are disgracefully ungrateful". Upheld. The article refers in terms to their "disgraceful ingratitude". This is a comment or opinion. No other conclusion is possible, in relation to the word "disgraceful". Ingratitude is a state of mind, and thus a fact. But again, the word in its context here is manifestly an inference from the other facts set out in the article.
(18) ("I'm not greedy! Father-of-8 who wanted bigger council house insists he has compromised!") A single meaning is complained of: "that the first claimant is greedy for demanding a bigger property". I find that this meaning is conveyed by this article. It is an opinion.
(19) ("Jobless dad whines about £15k a year council home and turns down five-bedroom house"). The claimants attribute to this article the Arrogance, Unreasonable Refusal, Abuse and Unemployment Meanings. The last of these is clearly conveyed, and is factual but non-defamatory. The other three meanings are also conveyed by the article. They are opinion.
(20) ("Fury as benefits dad-of-eight moved into plush £425,000 house"). Five meanings are complained of. One is the Unemployment Meaning, which is borne by the article but about which I need say no more. The others are the Shameless, Arrogance, Unreasonable Refusal, and Abuse Meanings. The article does not convey the Shameless Meaning. The other three meanings are borne by this article. They are all opinion.
(21) ("What a scandal"). The claimants complain of the Shameless, Arrogance, Unreasonable Refusal and Abuse Meanings. I uphold a version of the Shameless Meaning: the article suggests that the claimants have behaved in a way that is scandalous. This is (and could only be regarded as) opinion. The other meanings complained of are conveyed by this article, which contains words that also appear in one of The Sun articles: "The father has played the system and won". Those words suggest abuse of the system, falling short of dishonesty.
(22) ("A family of 10 living on British taxpayers' money".) The words bear the Unemployment Meaning, but that is not actionable. The other meanings complained of are the Arrogance, Unreasonable Refusal and Abuse Meanings all of which are conveyed by the article, but all of which are opinion.
(23) ("Benefit scroungers we love to hate".) This is not an article as such, but an online slideshow. A single meaning is complained of: the Abuse Meaning. The word on which this depends is "scroungers". I uphold this meaning, subject to the explanation given above: this publication suggests abuse of the system by exploiting it to the maximum, without dishonesty.
"The First Defendant also published and/or caused to be published numerous statements posted by third parties, ("the Posts"), responding to the content of the 7 Articles. The Posts contained words that are defamatory of the Claimants. The Claimants' solicitors wrote to the First Defendant on 17th February 2017 requesting that the Posts be taken down from its site but the First Defendant has refused to do so. The Claimants will rely upon each of every third party posting published by the Defendants and each of them at trial."
"The letter of claim was sent on 17 February 2017. The only claim identified was in defamation. It was directed to 7 online articles and 3 print articles. The letter stated that the online articles contained offensive reader comments. The reader comment function was disabled on 21 February in relation to the 7 articles. For the avoidance of doubt, this meant that no comments that had been made were visible and no further comments could be made."
"The fact of the sequence of publications by each of them demonstrated an overriding motive to take economic advantage of the damage caused to the Claimants reputations from those publications. On some occasions the said articles appeared upon the front page of the Defendants' newspapers from which it can be inferred that the Defendants considered that the Articles would assist the Defendants to sell their respective newspapers and or promote their respective online content. "
"15. … The Defendants and each of them wrote and published in their respective series of articles with words concerning the First Claimant's profession.
16. The words were false and published maliciously. As to their falsity, the First Claimant repeats paragraph 10 hereof.
17. As to the malice with which they were made, the First Claimant repeats paragraph 11 and 21- 24 herein.
18. In consequence, the First Claimant is likely to lose employment opportunities he would otherwise have retained had the words not been published.
19. Further or alternatively, the words were calculated to cause the First Claimant pecuniary damage in his profession."
"38. The Claimants by their solicitors' letter dated 20 December 2017 provided notice in writing to the Defendants and each of them requiring them at the end of 14 days to cease processing the said Posts on the ground that the processing of those Posts is causing or is likely to continue to cause substantial damage or substantial distress to the Claimants and their children, and that damage or distress was is or would be unwarranted. The Defendants despite the terms of that notice, as of the date hereof, have failed to comply with the Claimants' requests in breach of s.10 of the Data Protection Act 1998.
39. By reason of the actions of the Defendants, the Claimant have suffered damages. The Claimants have suffered serious injury to their feelings. "
"(4) Where at any time ("the relevant time") in any proceedings against a data controller under section 7(9), 10(4), 12(8) or 14 or by virtue of section 13 the data controller claims, or it appears to the court, that any personal data to which the proceedings relate are being processed -
(a) only for the special purposes, and
(b) with a view to the publication by any person of any journalistic, literary or artistic material which, at the time twenty-four hours immediately before the relevant time, had not previously been published by the data controller,
the court shall stay the proceedings until either of the conditions in subsection (5) is met."
"(a) that a determination of the Commissioner under section 45 with respect to the data in question takes effect, or
(b) in a case where the proceedings were stayed on the making of a claim, that the claim is withdrawn."
"(a) are not being processed only for the special purposes, or
(b) are not being processed with a view to the publication by any person of any journalistic, literary or artistic material which has not previously been published by the data controller"
(the emphasis is mine).
"The only breach alleged in the APOC (at [37B]) is that 'the obtaining and publication of the information contained in the Articles and Posts amounted to a misuse of the Claimant's [sic] personal information and a breach of confidence and were therefore unlawful, and that the photographs taken in the Articles was [sic] taken without disclosure of the Defendants' intended purposes and therefore surreptitiously and unfairly".
"38A. None of the conditions in Schedules 2 and 3 to the Data Protection Act have been met in breach of the first data protection principle.
38B. The personal data contained in the Articles and Posts was not obtained for a lawful purpose contrary to the second data protection principle."
However, these paragraphs serve as further illustrations of the unduly broad nature of the pleaded case. Paragraph 38A is bald assertion. Paragraph 38B is entirely obscure. As I understood Mr Engelman, the complaint in paragraph 38B arises (at least in part) from a contention that the claimants or one of them spoke to a journalist under a misapprehension about the purposes of the interview. There is no hint of that in the pleading. The words used do not identify the purpose which was not lawful. They tend to imply that the claimants' case is that writing about them is not a lawful purpose, but they do not explain why that should be so. It is impossible to see how the defendants are supposed to plead to this allegation in any meaningful way.
ARE THEY SERIOUS? First picture of four-bed house that jobless couple with eight kids slammed council for offering
The family insist they need SIX double bedrooms for their brood
By LAUREN FRUEN
7th September 2016, 10:48 am Updated: 21st February 2017, 12:13 pm
PHOTOS have emerged of one of the council houses turned down by a migrant family-of-ten because it was too small – and "didn't even have a dining room".
 Cameroon-born Arnold Mballe Sube, 33, came to Britain with wife Jeanne and their seven children four years ago because the NHS agreed to fund a £27,000 degree for him.
 The dad-of-eight has since bagged £108,000 hand-outs in a year.
 The family, since boosted by the arrival of a three-month-old daughter, now live in a four-bed house, kitted out with big flatscreen tellies, games devices and a Sky HD box.
 But Arnold, whose family ran up a £21,000 bill for food when the council put them in a hotel for four months, wants out of "the worst place they have ever lived."
 He is furious at only being offered a five-bedroom property.
 He said: "There wasn't space for the things of ten people. It didn't even have a dining room."
 Arnold, who uses one bedroom as a gym/office, said: "Me and my family have been neglected.
 "We are living in a three-bedroom house and there's not enough room for us.
 "It's so cramped and the conditions are terrible. My children are starting school and we can't stay here any longer.
 "The council is trying to make things hard for us.
 "My wife is a full-time mother and I am a student. They're just making excuses.
 "We need a five or six-bedroom house with double rooms to comfortably fit our family."
 Arnold moved to France at 18 and started a family with Jeanne, who is also from Cameroon.
 He wanted to study psychiatric nursing but failed to find a suitable course so moved to Britain with their seven children.
 The NHS funded the annual £9,000 cost of his three-year degree at the University of Bedfordshire while they were housed in a five-bed council property in Luton.
 They were evicted when the landlord decided to sell. So the council booked them into two rooms at the town's £160-per-night Hampton by Hilton hotel for four months at a cost of £38,400.
 When Arnold refused to pay the extra £21,000 room service and restaurant bill run up by the family, the council coughed for that too.
 Arnold said: "We couldn't cook. Children were eating on the carpet. We were ordering room service, chicken and chips, Chinese food. We had to order it twice per day for all the kids and all the family.
 "The council said I had to pay a bill for living in the hotel. That was very traumatising because we didn't ask for them to put us there."
 The couple were then moved into a four-bed house in Bletchley, Bucks, but complained because it is too small, especially with the arrival of Mary, now three months.
 Arnold and Jeanne, 33, both have smartphones, a laptop, with a 60in flatscreen TV and Sky HD box in their front room, plus a 52in telly in their bedroom.
 Their children — Mejane, 16, Fabian, 13, Analia, 13, Prosper, ten, Dylan, nine, six-year-old twins Sharon and Stacy, and baby Mary — also have a TV and an Xbox with dozens of games.
 The family have received annual hand-outs worth £44,000 since their arrival.
It is made up of housing and child benefits, as well as child tax credits and Arnold's NHS course payments.
 But their hotel stay has pushed that total to £108,000 in the last 12 months.
 Yet unhappy Arnold, who was offered a five-bed property last month, said: "We are entitled to six bedrooms. I believe that the council has to support me in order for me to become a positive person and contribute to the tax system."
 A neighbour said last night: "They've got some cheek. I'd bite the council's hand off if they offered me a five-bed house. They're too fussy and they shouldn't be allowed to get away with it."
 Another said: "I think it's a disgrace. There are people out on the streets in the city centre and ex- soldiers with nowhere to live. It is a struggle but don't go on and moan about it."
 Councillor Tom Shaw, responsible for housing at Luton Borough Council, said: "We have managed to find them a large four-bed house and then a five-bed which they turned down.
 "We can't be any more sympathetic. We can't just magic property that people want out of thin air."
 A spokesperson for the council said: "Housing stock in Luton is under constant pressure.
 "Despite difficulties we managed to find Mr and Mrs Sube affordable housing that is large enough to house them and their eight children.
 "After a generous offer on our part, we have done our bit and if housing is offered and declined without, what we judge, good reason, then we will offer the property to another family."
[A] Arnold Mballe Sube (far right) and wife Jeanne, pictured with their baby, with their children at their home in Luton after turning down a five-bed property
[B] They were offered this four-bedroom house in Chertsey Close, Luton but also turned it down
[C] The house where Arnold Mballe Sube and wife Jeanne – who claim they are being neglected – live with their children
[D] The family's living room has a wide screen television
[E] The children also have a TV and Xbox in their bedroom
[F] Mballe Sube says it is 'the worst place they have ever lived'
[G] The Cameroon-born student uses one room as a gym/study
[H] Arnold moved from Cameroon to France at 18 before travelling to Britain with his wife ans [sic] seven children after the NHS agreed to fund his degree