Sir James Dyson’s libel claim against Channel 4 is thrown out after High Court judge ruled programme exposing ‘exploitation’ of workers at Malaysian factory did not defame him
- Sir James Dyson Britain’s second richest man, sued Channel 4 News and ITN
- Documentary reported on factory which ‘helped make high-end vacuums’
- It was watched by estimated millions and featured interviews with workers
- They said they faced abuse and ‘inhuman conditions’ and were paid £9 a day
- Sir James claimed it falsely said he and Dyson companies were complicit
Sir James Dyson’s bid to sue Channel 4 has been thrown out after a High Court judge ruled that a documentary exposing alleged exploitation of workers at a factory in Malaysia did not defame him.
The technology tycoon, Britain’s second richest man, sued Channel 4 News and Independent Television News (ITN) for libel following the broadcast on February 10.
The documentary reported on conditions at a factory run by ATA which ‘helped make Dyson’s high-end vacuum-cleaners and air filters’.
It is estimated to have been seen by millions of viewers, and featured interviews with workers at ATA Industrial, who said they faced abuse and ‘inhuman conditions’ while at the factory and were paid only £9 a day.
Sir James claimed the broadcast falsely said he and companies Dyson Technology and Dyson Limited were complicit.
But in a judgment today, Mr Justice Nicklin dismissed his libel claim.
Sir James Dyson’s bid to sue Channel 4 has been thrown out after a High Court judge after it was ruled a documentary did not defame him
Workers said they faced abuse and ‘inhuman conditions’ while at the factory and were paid only £9 a day
The judge said: ‘The broadcast is simply not about him, and no ordinary reasonable viewer could conclude that he was being in any way criticised. The allegations in the broadcast were clearly targeted, but the targets do not include the first claimant [Sir James].
‘Only a reader that was hopelessly naïve about the way in which global companies like Dyson operate could consider that a single person, its founder, had day-to-day management responsibility for what happened in a manufacturing plant that supplied its products.’
Mr Justice Nicklin had been asked to decide several issues in the claim, including whether the programme defamed Sir James and the two companies.
Hugh Tomlinson KC, for Sir James and the companies, previously told the court the broadcast had targeted ‘Dyson meaning Sir James and Dyson companies’.
However, Adam Wolanski KC, for Channel 4 and ITN, had argued that the broadcast did not defame Sir James or even refer to the two companies.
And Mr Justice Nicklin found that while Sir James was named and pictured in the programme, the entrepreneur was not defamed. His claim was dismissed.
The judge was also asked to decide whether the two Dyson companies also suing were referred to in the broadcast.
He found the two ‘candidates’ identified by the broadcast would be the company trading with ATA and the company involved in the so-called ‘PR operation’ which responded to the claims becoming public knowledge.
He said that if Dyson Technology Limited and Dyson Limited were not those companies referred to, they would not be able to continue the libel claim either.
Sir James (pictured) claimed the broadcast falsely said he and companies Dyson Technology and Dyson Limited were complicit, but his claim was thrown out today
‘It may be possible for Dyson to put forward a revised claim on behalf of the current corporate claimants, or for claims to be brought by other companies in the Dyson group’, Mr Justice Nicklin said.
He added that he had not reached ‘any concluded view’ on the meaning of the programme in relation to the two companies.
Following the ruling today, Dyson said it maintains the broadcast made ‘misleading and defamatory allegations’ against the companies.
A spokesperson said: ‘In February 2022 Channel 4 News broadcast a report about a manufacturer in Malaysia called ATA, with whom Dyson terminated its contract in November 2021, in which they also made false and defamatory allegations against Dyson.
‘The judgment today is on a number of preliminary technical issues regarding how the case will proceed.
‘The judgement concludes that the allegations centre on ATA and are not defamatory in respect of Sir James Dyson. We do, however, maintain that the broadcast made misleading and defamatory allegations against the Dyson companies.’
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