The initial ruling over defamatory meaning allows the case to proceed to trial where the publisher can put forward defences such as truth and honest opinion.
You magazine and Mail Online between them published three articles in print and digital in August 2021 tied around an interview Adams had given to mark the release of her Amazon documentary Lioness.
The articles trail revelations from the documentary about her family life, including “a new and quite shocking fallout with her mother and long-time supporter, Dee, whom she accuses of sending drunken, insulting texts”.
Nicola told You magazine: “I suffered a lot of abuse with my dad and then it’s just continued with my mum in a different form.”
Denver Adams is suing Associated Newspapers (part of Daily Mail and General Trust), saying the articles stated texts she had sent her daughter were a “continuation or perpetuation of the violent abuse Nicola Adams suffered at the hands of her father” in her childhood, and that they suggested she was responsible for “neglectful conduct” during the boxer’s childhood.
Associated Newspapers has not yet been required to file a defence in the case.
But at the trial of preliminary issues around meaning, the publisher argued it was “nonsensical” to say texts had perpetuated physical violence.
And giving an indication of its potential defence, the publisher submitted “that the allegation as to abusive texting is a statement of fact, but Nicola Adams’ comment that her mother’s conduct has perpetuated the childhood abuse she suffered at the hands of her father is her opinion, that is Nicola’s opinion, based on the emotional impact of her mother’s conduct”.
Mrs Justice Tipples did not agree fully with the meaning proposed by Denver saying the “hypothetical reasonable reader” would not have thought she was responsible for neglecting her daughter during her childhood leading to the Olympian being forced to steal because she was hungry and almost being taken into care.
Instead, the judge said the hypothetical reasonable reader “will understand that, until recently, Nicola Adams had a good and supportive relationship with her mother and, although Nicola had a tough upbringing, that was not the fault of her mother”.
Mrs Justice Tipples did ultimately decide the articles had a defamatory meaning of Denver, which she set out as: “The claimant has sent her daughter, Nicola Adams, drunken, insulting and hurtful text messages and, by sending these abusive messages to her daughter, the claimant has perpetuated, in a different form, the abuse Nicola Adams suffered at the hands of her father when she was a child, and that has ruined her relationship with her daughter.”
This was mostly a statement of fact, the judge said, other than the section about the perpetuation of abuse suffered at the hands of Nicola’s father, which was found to be an expression of opinion.
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