Sir James Dyson in High Court libel battle against Channel 4
Jess Glass, PA
6 October 2022, 22:24
Sir James Dyson is bringing a High Court libel claim against Channel 4 over a broadcast which made allegations of abuse and exploitation of workers at a factory which used to supply goods to his firm.
The billionaire is suing the broadcaster and Independent Television News (ITN) over the allegations made during Channel 4’s news programme on February 10.
At the first hearing in London on Thursday, the court was told the programme reported on legal action brought against the vacuum cleaning giant by several workers at a Malaysian factory which previously supplied products to Dyson.https://d-13336929873851892149.ampproject.net/2209142312000/frame.html
The court was told the programme is estimated to have been seen by millions of viewers, and featured interviews with workers at ATA Industrial who said they faced abuse and “inhuman conditions” while at the factory, which manufactured vacuum cleaners and air filters.
Sir James, who is bringing the case with companies Dyson Technology and Dyson Limited, claims the broadcast falsely said he and the companies were complicit in systematic abuse and exploitation of the workers.
On Thursday, Mr Justice Nicklin was asked to decide several preliminary issues in the claim, including whether the two companies were referred to in the broadcast and if the programme defamed them and Sir James.https://d-13336929873851892149.ampproject.net/2209142312000/frame.html
Hugh Tomlinson KC, for Sir James and the companies, argued that a claimant does not need to be referred to by name for the programme to be defamatory.
He said: “What is the broadcast targeting? The broadcast is targeting, we say, Dyson meaning Sir James and Dyson companies.”
“There is nothing in the broadcast which in any way distances the first claimant [Sir James] from the allegations in the broadcast or dilutes the allegation of complicity,” the barrister added in written submissions.
Mr Tomlinson later said that Channel 4 and ITN’s case was that there was “no suggestion” Sir James had “any knowledge or culpability” of the abuse.
“We say that does not reflect the reality of the position. Sir James Dyson is linked with Dyson by the defendants,” the barrister argued.
The barrister argued that the broadcast did not include statements of opinion.
Mr Tomlinson said: “This is not an opinion programme. It is not a programme where commentators are wheeled out to give their views… It is presented as exclusive revelations in a news programme.”
Adam Wolanski KC, for Channel 4 and ITN, argued that the two Dyson companies were not referred to in the programme.
“There is nothing in the words in the broadcast that identifies the second claimant or the third claimant and that is the end of it,” he told the court.
He argued in written submissions that the two companies are “merely two of presumably a large number of corporate entities within a large structure”.
The barrister added that if the two companies were the ones referred to, the programme featured issues of opinion rather than factual allegations against them.
“The broadcast raises the question as to whether Dyson is responsible for abuses of labour rights at a company within its supply chain,” Mr Wolanski said in written submissions.
“This question is inherently recognisable to the viewer as a matter of opinion.”
Mr Wolanski also argued that the broadcast did not defame Sir James, saying in written submissions that there is “no suggestion whatsoever in the broadcast that [he] has any knowledge of or culpability for Dyson’s relationship with its supplier ATA or for any events at ATA itself”.
“Nothing else is said about him after the brief introduction…It is simply not defamatory of him at all,” the barrister told the court.
Mr Justice Nicklin will give his decision on the preliminary issues in writing at a later date.