Appeal allowed in Downing street Cash for Access Libel Claim
On 21 June 2013 the Court of Appeal overturned Mr Justice Tugendhats decision in the libel case of Peter Cruddas v (1) Jonathan Calvert (2) Heidi Blake (3) Times Newspapers Ltd  EWCA Civ 748.
The Claimant Peter Cruddas is a former Conservative Party co-treasurer who brought libel and malicious falsehood proceedings against two journalists and the publisher of the sunday Times after the paper published a series of articles about him in March 2012. The articles were concerned with revelations made as a result of two undercover journalists meeting with Cruddas whilst posing as Middle Eastern investors. The Claimant alleged that the articles defamed him because they bore the following meanings:
˜(1) In return for cash donations to the Conservative Party, the Claimant corruptly offered for sale the opportunity to influence government policy and gain unfair advantage through secret meetings with the Prime Minister and other senior ministers;
(2) The Claimant made the offer, even though he knew that the money offered for secret meetings was to come, in breach of the ban under UK electoral law, from Middle Eastern investors in a Lichtenstein fund; and
(3) Further, in order to circumvent and thereby evade the law, the Claimant was happy that the foreign donors should use deceptive devices, such as creating an artificial UK company to donate the money or using UK employees as conduits, so that the true source of the donation would be concealed.
The Defendants disagreed with the meanings that the Claimant had attributed to the articles. They relied on the lesser meaning that the Claimants conduct had been ˜inappropriate, unacceptable and wrong and gave rise to an impression of impropriety. In turn they relied on the defence of justification.
Deciding the preliminary issue of the ˜natural and ordinary meaning of the articles, Mr Justice Tugendhat held that, for the purpose of the single meaning rule in libel, the articles did bear the meanings as pleaded by the Claimant.
For the purpose of the claim under malicious falsehood, the learned judge found that the words complained of were capable of bearing not only the meanings pleaded by the Claimant but also those attributed to the articles by the Defendants. His decision on the meanings of the articles prompted him to find that the words complained of connoted conduct which is criminal in the jurisdiction.
As a result of the finding, Tugendhat J struck out the defence of justification which had only been relied on to defend the allegation that the Claimant was corrupt in a sense that fell below an attachment of criminal liability.
The Defendants appealed the decision made by Tugendhat J to Longmore LJ, Rafferty LJ and sir stephen sedley at the Court of Appeal. On 21 June 2013, at a rolled up permission and appeal hearing, they disagreed with the ruling of Tugendhat J. Accordingly, the defence of justification was reinstated for the libel claim. A trial to determine the issues will now have to be listed.
A full copy of the appeal judgment can be found here:
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