UK

Sir James Dyson loses libel claim against Mirror publisher at High Court

Court artist sketch of Sir James Dyson appearing at the Royal Courts Of Justice, central London, for his libel trial against Mirror Group Newspapers (Elizabeth Cook/PA)
Court artist sketch of Sir James Dyson appearing at the Royal Courts Of Justice, central London, for his libel trial against Mirror Group Newspapers (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

Sir James Dyson has lost his libel claim against the publisher of the Daily Mirror at the High Court.

The inventor, 76, brought legal action against Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) over an article published in January 2022.

In the Daily Mirror article, journalist Brian Reade referred to the engineer as “the vacuum-cleaner tycoon who championed Vote Leave due to the economic opportunities it would bring to British industry before moving his global head office to Singapore”.

Mr Reade continued: “Kids, talk the talk but then screw your country and if anyone complains, tell them to suck it up.”

Sir James subsequently brought the claim against MGN, describing the allegations in the article as a “vicious and vitriolic” personal attack which undermined his work encouraging young people into engineering.

The publisher defended the case, including by arguing that Mr Reade’s article was “honest opinion”.

And in a judgment on Friday, Mr Justice Jay dismissed the inventor’s claim, finding both that MGN’s defence had succeeded and that Sir James had not proved he suffered serious harm to his reputation.

He said: “In the present case the claimant cannot demonstrate that he has suffered financial loss as a result of these publications. Nor can he show that his philanthropic work, particularly directed to young people and schools, has been harmed in any way.”

Sir James Dyson libel case
Sir James Dyson gave evidence at the Royal Courts of Justice over two days at the trial last month (Gareth Fuller/PA)

In the 34-page ruling, the judge described Sir James as “an honest witness albeit one with a particular world view”, after the engineer gave evidence at the London court over two days in November.

Much of the engineer’s evidence focused on the January 2019 announcement that the Dyson company would be establishing a global headquarters in Singapore.

Sir James told the court the decision relating to the group of companies he founded “had no material impact upon Dyson’s UK operations or its commitment to the UK, or to the amount of corporation tax paid in the UK”.

In his decision on Friday, Mr Justice Jay said he had to consider “whether an honest commentator could think that the claimant has screwed the country, in other words has harmed it in some way, by acting as he did”.

The judge concluded: “Mr Reade was not attempting to offer a window into or shine a light on the claimant’s thought processes or motivation. He could not, and did not, claim to do that.

“Rather, the ‘screwed his country etc’ remark was Mr Reade’s ‘take’ on how people would or might envisage the claimant’s actions.”

The judge continued: “Given that Mr Reade fell short of accusing the claimant of dishonesty, the scope for honest comment, however wounding and unbalanced, was very considerable indeed.”

Following the decision, an MGN spokesperson said: “We welcome today’s judgment which upholds the rights of our columnists to share honestly held opinions, even about powerful or wealthy individuals.”