Article was a ‘highly distressing’ personal attack, Dyson tells High Court
Entrepreneur Sir James Dyson is suing the publishers of The Mirror newspaper over a 2022 article.
Sir James Dyson has told the High Court an article that a “vicious” article in the Daily Mirror was a “highly distressing and hurtful” personal attack.
Sir James, 76, entered the witness box at the Royal Courts of Justice on Tuesday to give evidence in the trial of his libel claim against the newspaper’s publisher Mirror Group Newspapers Limited (MGN) over an article published in January 2022.
In his witness statement, the inventor and billionaire entrepreneur who is one of the leading lights in British technology and industry, said he felt the article was “a personal attack on all that I have done and achieved in my lifetime and is highly distressing and hurtful”.
In the Daily Mirror article, journalist 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.”
MGN is defending the libel claim, including on the basis of honest opinion.
In a witness statement, Sir James said the article, and an online version, were “vicious and vitriolic”.
The inventor added that it was “incredibly harmful to my reputation” and was published “to at least many hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people”.
He wrote: “They attacked my personal character and morals in the very worst way, accusing me not just of being a hypocrite, but of screwing the country and setting a poor moral example to young people.”
He continued: “The context in which they did so was an article with a headline referring to ‘cheats’ prospering, and which included a rogues’ gallery of notorious persons who have acted, or are alleged to have acted, illegally or dishonestly.
“As someone who has invested so heavily in the UK and its young people, I found these attacks particularly damaging and distressing.”
He wrote: “I have taken serious personal financial risks, made huge investments in this country and have worked incredibly hard to benefit my country.
“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.”
Sir James Dyson, who backed the UK leaving the European Union, also said that a decision to establish a Dyson global headquarters in Singapore “had nothing to do with Brexit at all”.
He said the move relating to the group of companies he founded “had no material impact upon Dyson’s UK operations or its commitment to the UK, or to the amount of corporation tax paid in the UK”.
The inventor continued: “It simply reflected the long-term commercial reality of Dyson’s global business operations that had existed for many years previously, the same one faced by countless other UK companies which have made similar decisions to expand internationally and manufacture in south-east Asia”.
Adrienne Page KC, for MGN, told the court the words in the article are “substantially correct” and that Sir James could not dictate how the commentator poses them.
She added that “it is pitched to a lay audience, against a notorious background to 2019 and he is doing it pithily”.
On how the reference to having “screwed the country” could be viewed, the court heard that this may not necessarily be limited to the potential impact on the Dyson corporation.
Ms Page said “it could be a symbolic betrayal, ditching Britain, of two-fingers to Britain”.
In written submissions, she added that Sir James’ approach to the legal claim “has been markedly unreasonable, wholly disproportionate and abusive”.
She stated: “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 £1 million 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”.
Ms 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.