Donald Trump wins (in the High Court)

Kamran Malik v Donald J Trump 2016 EWHC 2011 (QB) (Before Master McCloud)

The Claimant brought claims in the High Court against the US presidential candidate, Donald John Trump, in respect of statements which Mr Trump made during speeches as part of his campaign to be selected as the Republican nominee in that presidential election.  A number of those statements, which referred to persons of Muslin faith, were then reported in the British press and by the British Broadcasting Corporation.  The types of statements made by Mr Trump and relied upon by the Claimant had been criticised by the Mayor of London as being “complete and utter nonsense”, and the former Prime Minister of the UK had referred to the remarks as “divisive, unhelpful and quite simply wrong”.

The Claimant’s pleaded claim was effectively a claim in libel.  In addition, he sought to plead a claim for damages in relation to suggested infringements of articles 9 and 14 of the ECHR, however any such claim was bound to fail as Mr Trump is not a public authority falling within the scope of the Human Rights Act 1998.

Master McCloud was faced with two applications; (i) an application for permission to proceed with the claim against Mr Trump by serving him in the USA or deeming him to have been served in Scotland at his Turnberry golf course business, and (ii) a parallel application for an injunction restraining Mr Trump from entering the UK for a period of two years.

In considering the first application Master McCloud had to decide whether there was a claim which was actionable and as part of that the Defendant submitted that the Claimant had not complied with CPR 53 in relation to a pleaded claim for libel and in particular CPR53 PD 2.3, as to which a claimant must specify in the particulars of claim the defamatory meaning which he alleges that the words or matters complained of conveyed, both as to their natural and ordinary meaning and as to any innuendo meaning.  On the basis of the pleadings before the court, Master McCloud did not consider that the Rule and Practice Direction had been complied with and no defamatory meaning had been so specified in the pleadings.  Because there had been an earlier unless order for Mr Malik to comply with the relevant practice direction and Rule, which he had failed to do, the claim was automatically struck out thereby effectively deciding both applications.

However, Master McCloud went on to consider two further objections raised by the Defendant to the claim, in both instances finding on the facts for the Defendant.  First, for a claim in defamation one needs something which either names a claimant or which identifies him by facts known to the reader which make it clear who is referred to; but that had not occurred in the articles relied upon by Mr Malik.  Secondly, the Defendant submitted that the words complained of were not defamatory even if they referred to the Claimant.  Again the Defendant’s submissions were preferred. Mr Malik had chosen to rely upon newspaper articles which were not defamatory.  That is because the articles to which he referred actually sought to rubbish or point out the fallacy of the statements made by Mr Trump and did so in a balanced way.  Whilst “Mr Malik’s intention to say that the words used by Mr Trump alone were defamatory… he has pleaded for that purpose articles which are not suitable to achieve that end.

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