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Dyson loses libel case against Daily Mirror

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Sir James Dyson has lost his libel battle against the publisher of the Daily Mirror over an article that branded the billionaire a hypocrite for supporting Brexit before moving his head office to Singapore.

The industrialist, who made his fortune from bagless vacuum cleaners, sued over the column that claimed children would draw the lesson from Dyson that they could “talk the talk, then screw your country”.

But London’s High Court dismissed the inventor’s claim in a ruling handed down on Friday.

The judge, Mr Justice Jay, found the publication amounted to “honest opinion”, one of the defences to defamation in English law. He also said that Dyson had failed to demonstrate “serious harm”.

Dyson faced the accusations of hypocrisy after announcing he would relocate the corporate head office of his company — a success story in British manufacturing — from Wiltshire to Singapore.

The company said at the time it was for commercial reasons given that most of its customers, and all its manufacturing operations, were in Asia. It also stressed that Brexit was not a motivating factor.

The businessman, 76, told the court that the claims in the Mirror were “a personal attack on all that I have done and achieved in my lifetime and are highly distressing”.

Citing the risks he had taken and the investments he had made in the UK building his business empire, he said the article’s portrayal was “not only wrong but incredibly harmful to my reputation”.

Mirror journalist Brian Reade wrote that the magnate had “championed Vote Leave due to the economic opportunities it would bring British industry before moving his global head office to Singapore”.

“In other words kids, talk the talk, then screw your country, and if anyone complains tell them to suck it up.”

In his ruling, Jay said Reade was “not attempting to offer a window into or shine a light on the claimant’s thought-processes or motivation. He could not, and did not, claim to do that.

“Rather, the ‘screwed his country etc’ remark was Mr Reade’s ‘take’ on how people would or might envisage the claimant’s actions.”

Jay also said Dyson could not demonstrate that he has suffered financial loss as a result of the publication, nor that his philanthropic work had been harmed.

The judge also noted the column in question was intended to be light-hearted and most readers would take the remarks to be “crude, rhetorical and hyperbolic”, not that Reade was “making any particularly illuminating observation”.

MGN said it welcomed the judgment, which “upholds the rights of our columnists to share honestly held opinions, even about powerful or wealthy individuals”.

A Dyson spokesperson said the company was a highly successful global technology group that employed 3,700 people in the UK, paid more corporation tax after 2019 than before and continued to invest in the country.

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