Sunday, 10 January 2010

Libel To Become Unstuck - Dr Martin Roberts

Another stellar article from Martin Roberts.

Libel To Become Unstuck

What price legal lunacy? Well, it's probably an outlay best estimated with reference to Carter-Ruck's fees menu, or the hourly charge-out rate of partner Adam Tudor.

Whatever the fiscal damage, there is unquestionably an element of lunacy (a large element in fact) attaching to next week's showdown at the 'not O.K.' corral in Lisbon.

First, a couple of relevant observations regarding libel: (i) Repeating another's libel, however unwittingly, is no less a libel for that. (ii) When Oscar Wilde went unwisely to court to challenge the Marquis of Queensbury's insinuation that he was homosexual, it was on the strength of words written for, and ultimately delivered to, Wilde himself, on the reverse of a calling card left for him at the Albermarle club ('To Oscar Wilde, posing as a somdomite.' [sic]). Although 'Bosie's bullying father may well have made his adverse opinion of the flamboyant Oscar even more well known among London society, he did not otherwise commit himself to print on the matter. Hence, although he may have slandered his adversary on any number of occasions, his libel was precisely targeted and thus limited in its published scope.

Goncalo Amaral's putatively libellous book (published), followed the official police report containing exactly the same data and interpretation (unpublished). On the basis of historical precedent however, publication for the benefit of a wider audience is, as we have just seen, not a necessary criterion in cases of libel. Thus, Goncalo Amaral's book, if held to be libellous, cannot be considered so independently of the assessment upon which it draws, but only on account of its repeating an earlier libel by whichever member(s) of the PJ signed off on the original report. And yet Goncalo Amaral is the only party now required to defend himself. more