View all newsletters
Sign up for our free email newsletters

Fighting for quality news media in the digital age.

  1. Media Law
November 21, 2023updated 01 Dec 2023 11:30am

Mirror article accusing James Dyson of ‘screwing country’ was ‘vitriolic’, libel trial told

The publisher argues an honest person “could self-evidently have held the opinion”.

By PA Media

UPDATE: Mirror strikes victory for honest opinion as Dyson loses £1m libel bid

A “highly vitriolic” Mirror article suggesting that Sir James Dyson is a hypocrite who “screwed” the country damaged the business tycoon’s reputation, the High Court has heard.

The inventor and entrepreneur is suing Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN), now Reach, the publisher of the Daily Mirror, for libel over an article published in January 2022.

In the article, columnist Brian Reade referred to Sir James 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”.

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

Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
Thank you

Thanks for subscribing.

MGN is defending the libel claim, including on the basis of honest opinion.

Content from our partners
Cannes Lions: The world's best creativity all in one place
L'Equipe signs content syndication deal with The Content Exchange
Journalism can be relentless: But overworking could be fatal

Sir James, 76, sat in front of his lawyers in the courtroom in London’s Royal Courts of Justice during the first day of the trial on Tuesday.

In his witness statement he told the court the article was “highly distressing and hurtful”.

“I have taken serious personal financial risks, made huge investments in this country and have worked incredibly hard to benefit my country,” he said.

“Through my actions, I have prioritised setting a good moral example to young people.”

He continued: “So to be accused by the defendant in the articles of being a hypocrite who had screwed the country and who set a poor moral example to young people is not only wrong but incredibly harmful to my reputation.

“These allegations represent a personal attack on all that I have done and achieved in my lifetime and are highly distressing and hurtful.

“Most importantly, they undermine all the work I have done trying to help young people with an interest in engineering to gain the necessary training as well as practical experience and employment opportunities in this field.”

Mirror article about James Dyson ‘highly vitriolic’

Justin Rushbrooke KC, for the inventor, told the court the article was a “highly vitriolic piece of journalism” with no evidence to justify its critical claims.

He said it had inflicted “significant material damage” and the reference to having “screwed the country” could be interpreted as to mean that “something harmful” had been done.

Rushbrooke added: “It must mean to the ordinary reasonable reader of the Mirror that you have done something damaging to the country.”

In written submissions, the barrister said the articles, both in print and online “constituted a serious and unjustified slur on Sir James’ reputation, business and personal”.

The barrister told the court it would take a “twisted mind” to believe the January 2019 announcement that the Dyson company would be establishing a global headquarters in Singapore could lead to such extreme claims about Sir James.

He added that an “honest opinion is supposed to give latitude but it is not a licence for a journalist to mislead the reader.”

Rushbrooke also pointed out the word “screwed” could be seen as meaning “underhand and discreditable”.

The barrister described Sir James as a “British success story”, with the court told the inventor has provided opportunities for young people in the UK, particularly as regards their education and training, and is widely involved in many philanthropic activities.

In a statement, a Dyson spokesperson said Sir James had brought the legal claim “as a last resort”.

“The Mirror Group Newspapers has admitted to the court that Sir James is recognised as one of the UK’s greatest ever inventors and business leaders and that he is one of the UK’s leading philanthropists, particularly in the educational fields, yet the allegations made by the newspaper in its article were vicious, vitriolic and attacked his personal character in the very worst way,” they said.

However, Adrienne Page KC, for MGN, said in written submissions that Sir James’ approach to the legal claim “has been markedly unreasonable, wholly disproportionate and abusive”.

She continued in written submissions: “It might strike the court as surprising that a person who enjoys a level of success and influence as this claimant would choose to spend somewhere in the region of £1m litigating to trial the question of whether these short passages represent an opinion an honest person could have held.”

The barrister said that an honest person “could self-evidently have held the opinion”.

Page continued: “Opinions do not need to be justifiable as the claimant puts it, they need to be capable of being held by a person who is honest.”

“It was a genuinely and indeed widely held view that the decisions relied on represented a betrayal of this country made particularly acute by the claimant’s prior and influential support for a political position which, in the eyes of many, has caused this country severe economic harm.”

The trial before Mr Justice Jay is set to conclude on Friday with a decision expected at a later date.

Topics in this article : , ,

Email pged@pressgazette.co.uk to point out mistakes, provide story tips or send in a letter for publication on our "Letters Page" blog

Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
Thank you

Thanks for subscribing.

Websites in our network