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Gray v Jones [1939] 1 All ER 798

Slander; words actionable per se; words imputing criminal offence

(172 words)

Facts

The defendant said the following to the claimant: “You are a convicted person. I will not have you here.” The claimant brought an action for slander. The jury found that the words were in fact said by the defendant and awarded damages to the claimant. The defendant disagreed with the conclusion.

Issue

The question before the Court was whether the defendant’s words were actionable even without proof of special damage.

Held

The Court found that, in this case, the words said to the claimant were in fact actionable without proof of special damage. This was not because the words caused the claimant to face criminal prosecution (he had arguably been through criminal proceedings already), but because such words could make other people exclude the claimant from society and could make him the subject of ridicule, hatred and contempt. The defendant’s words could well have caused others to believe that the claimant was convicted of a criminal offence for which he should have been imprisoned – instead of being there with them, free.


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