William Bennett KC

William Bennett KC

William specialises in actions concerning defamation, privacy, breach of confidence, harassment and data protection.  He is ranked as a leading silk in defamation and privacy by both Chambers & Partners and the Legal 500 and was named as a Barrister of the Week by The Lawyer for his work for the Duke of Sussex in his successful claim for libel against the Mail on Sunday and the MailOnline.

Since 2021, his work has included acting for the successful parties in the Court of Appeal in Rachel Riley v Laura Murray, Richard Millett v Jeremy Corbyn and Fiona George v Lynn Cannell and in the trials Rachel Riley v Laura Murray, Fiona George v Lynn Cannell and John Ware v Paddy French (clients’ names underlined).

In October 2023 William appeared on behalf of Fiona George in the Supreme Court (whose judgment is currently reserved).

Many of the claims William advises on have resulted in successful settlements for his clients, including for Dinah Rose KC (the President of Magdalen College, Oxford), whose claim against The Times concluded with the payment of damages and the making of a statement in open court by which The Times apologised for defaming her (Guardian report: The Times pays damages to lawyer over misleading article).

A major element of William’s privacy practice is comprised of claims against Channel 5 for the misuse of private information arising from the filming for and the broadcast of the reality programme Can’t Pay? We’ll Take it Away!  Following the claimants’ success at trial in Ali & Aslam v Channel 5 arising from such misuses (and the upholding of the judgment in their favour by the Court of Appeal), he has acted in in over 35 claims in which settlements have been achieved for claimants whose private information has been misused by the programme.

NOTABLE CASES

DEFAMATION AND MALICIOUS FALSEHOOD
  • Rachel Riley v Laura Murray  Acted for television presenter Rachel Riley in a defamation claim arising from a tweet published by Laura Murray which accused Ms Riley of publicly stating that Jeremy Corbyn deserved to be violently attacked.  At trial defences of truth, honest opinion and public interest failed and Ms Riley was awarded £10,000 in damages.  The decision was upheld by the Court of Appeal.
  • John Ware v Paddy French  Acted for the journalist John Ware concerning defamatory allegations about his involvement in producing an edition of the BBC programme Panorama called Is Labour Anti-Semitic? Mr Ware was accused of being a rogue journalist who had engaged in dirty tricks against the Labour Party and of presenting a knowingly false account of the extent and nature of antisemitism within the Party. Following trial, Mr Ware was awarded £90,000 in damages.
  • Fiona George v Lynn Cannell & LCA  Acted for Fiona George in her claim for malicious falsehood against her former employer. At trial the malice and falsehood components of the tort were proven but the claim failed because the claimant did not satisfy s.3 of the Defamation Act 1952 by which, absent special damage, it will suffice as an element of the tort if a claimant proves likelihood of pecuniary damage as a result of the publication of the words complained of. This finding turned on the trial judge’s interpretation of s.3. On Ms George’s appeal, the Court of Appeal overturned the trial judge’s finding on liability on the ground that his interpretation of s.3 had been wrong. The defendants then appealed that decision to the Supreme Court. The judgment following the ensuing two day hearing in the Supreme Court is reserved.
  • Martin Lewis v Facebook  Acted for Martin Lewis, the Money Saving Expert, in ground-breaking claim against Facebook for the publication of adverts showing fake endorsements supposedly given by Mr Lewis, usually for bitcoin investment schemes. A record-breaking settlement was achieved by which Facebook agreed to donate £3m to Citizens Advice to set up a new UK Anti Scams Action Project.

    Sky News: Martin Lewis settles lawsuit against Facebook over scam ads “this case may set an uncomfortable practical precedent for Facebook. By agreeing to take, as it puts it, “a leadership role”, the social network has accepted some measure of responsibility for the content its users see. To see how that could make life difficult for Facebook, it’s worth considering a fact that went unmentioned in the cosy press conference held to announce the news. As well as donating £3m to Citizens Advice, Facebook settled with Martin Lewis for what he says is “a six-figure sum” covering his costs, making it, in his eyes, “a definite win”.
  • Jack Monroe v Katie Hopkins  Acted for Jack Monroe. Following trial, Katie Hopkins was ordered to pay damages for defamatory tweets. This was the first time that the requirement for a claimant to prove serious harm to reputation (further to s.1 Defamation Act 2013) was considered in respect of libels published on Twitter.
  • FlyMeNow v Quick Air Charter  Acted for the Defendant. At trial the words complained of were found to be partially true and, due to other mitigating factors, the Claimant was only awarded derisory damages of £10 and ordered to pay nearly all of the Defendant’s costs.
  • Gary Flood v Times Newspapers  Junior Counsel for the Claimant, Gary Flood. The leading case on the public interest defence under the Defamation Act 2013. It is probably the most complex and long-running case in the history of libel litigation. In addition to separate trials on liability and quantum, two Court of Appeal and two Supreme Court appeals, there were nine other hearings. The relevant article was first published in June 2006 and the claim did not conclude until the Supreme Court handed down its second judgment in the case in April 2017.

Appointed as amicus curiae by the Privy Council for the purpose of an appeal in Pinard-Byrne v Linton, an appeal from the Court of Appeal of Dominica concerning a Reynolds/public interest defence.

PRIVACY & BREACH OF CONFIDENCE

  • Ali & Aslam v Channel 5  Ground-breaking claim for misuse of private information arising out of the broadcast of an episode of Can’t Pay? We’ll Take it Away! which showed the Claimants being evicted from their home. Following a trial, the Claimants were awarded damages.
  • Gareth Bull v Donna Desporte  Acted at trial for the Claimant, a winner of the Euromillions lottery, in order to prevent the publication of private information contained in his former lover’s memoir. Injunction granted and damages awarded.
  • Paul Burrell v Max Clifford  Acted for Paul Burrell. Successful trial outcome: damages awarded for a misuse of private information whereby Max Clifford had forwarded a letter written in confidence to him by Mr Burrell to Rebekah Brookes, who was at the time the Editor of the News of the World.
  • AVB v TDD  Trial counsel for the Claimant in a claim for misuse of private information, breach of confidence and harassment. Injunction granted at the conclusion of the trial re misuse of private information and breach of confidence.

MEDIATION

CEDR accredited mediator.

DIRECTORIES

William has been described in the following ways in the client comments published by the Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners:

‘Calm and polite for solicitors to deal with but very clear and ordered as an advocate. Brilliant at cross-examining witnesses because of his non-aggressive approach.’

“Impressive advocate with an extremely high success rate.”

“Very approachable and down to earth, and has lots of trial experience.”

“He’s extremely good: very straightforward and excellent value for money.”

“He’s tenacious, practical and always works hard to achieve a positive result. He’s very well regarded for his advice and the outcomes he achieves are first-rate.”

‘A brilliant cross-examiner and trial advocate.’

“He is an excellent advocate who has conducted a number of trials. He’s a pleasure to work with.”

Called

1994 Called to the Bar of England and Wales
2019 Silk

Education



Common Professional Examination (College of Law) - 1992-1993
Bar Vocational Course (Inns of Court School of Law) - 1993-94

Areas of work

Reporting the Courts and Contempt
Data Protection and Information Law
Defamation and Malicious Falsehood
Injunctive Relief
Privacy and Confidence

Testimonials

Consistently recommended as a leading defamation counsel in both Chambers and Partners and the Legal 500.

Chambers & Partners & Legal 500, 2008 – 2024

“Calm and polite for solicitors to deal with but very clear and ordered as an advocate. Brilliant at cross-examining witnesses because of his non-aggressive approach.”

“Specialist media junior focusing on libel, breach of confidence and privacy. He regularly appears as sole counsel and is led by eminent silks in the field. He appears for both claimants and defendants in high-profile disputes.”

“He’s tenacious, practical and always works hard to achieve a positive result. He’s very well regarded for his advice and the outcomes he achieves are first-rate.”

‘A brilliant cross-examiner and trial advocate.’

One of the leading juniors at the Bar with a very busy practice. He is an excellent advocate who has conducted a number of trials. He’s a pleasure to work with.”

“Specialist media junior focusing on libel, breach of confidence and privacy. He regularly appears as sole counsel and is led by eminent silks in the field. He appears for both claimants and defendants in high-profile disputes.”

“He’s tenacious, practical and always works hard to achieve a positive result. He’s very well regarded for his advice and the outcomes he achieves are first-rate.”

‘A brilliant cross-examiner and trial advocate.’

“One of the leading juniors at the Bar with a very busy practice. He is an excellent advocate who has conducted a number of trials. He’s a pleasure to work with.”

Regularly acts as sole counsel opposite some of London’s most experienced QCs.  Clients go to him due to the measured approach he takes to heavyweight cases.

He’s diligent, thoughtful and very good in court.

He is a good advocate, who is calm and very articulate.

Demonstrates real strength in all he does.  He is self-reliant, fearless and an amazing one-man band when he needs to be.

A strongly analytical barrister who is very good with clients.  He is known for his efficient, results-oriented approach.

He has phenomenal ability as an advocate.

Capable of running things without hand-holding.

Bright, approachable and good with clients.

He’s diligent, thoughtful and very good in court.

Thinks outside the box.

A dynamic character.

Precise and analytical, distilling facts easily.

Dominic Crossley – Partner, Payne Hicks Beach

William’s approach to the claim was 1st class throughout.  He was cheerful, unpretentious, readily available when called upon and able to respond to the actions of an unpredictable opposition.  At trial his strategy and straight-forward manner ensured that the client’s case was perfectly presented.  I am continuing to instruct William and hope that we can remain a successful team.

Featured cases

Flood v Times Newspapers Limited (SC)

[2012] UKSC 11 21/03/2012

Cambridge v Makin

[2012] EWCA Civ 85 09/02/2012

Purnell v Business F1 Magazine Ltd & Another

14/03/2006 14/03/2006

All cases

Defamation and Malicious Falsehood

Corbyn v Millett

[2021] EWCA Civ 567 20/04/2021

Flymenow Limited v Quick Air Jet Charter GmbH

[2016] EWHC 3197 (QB) 16/12/2016

Begg v BBC

[2016] EWHC 2688 (QB) 28/10/2016

Pinard-Byrne v Linton

[2015] UKPC 41 12/10/2015

Qadir v Associated Newspapers Ltd

[2012] EWHC 2606 (QB); [2013] EMLR 15 05/10/2012

Flood v Times Newspapers Limited (SC)

[2012] UKSC 11 21/03/2012

Wood v Chief Constable of West Midlands Police (CA)

[2004] EWCA Civ 1638; [2005] EMLR 449; The Times, 13 December 2004 08/12/2004

Privacy and Confidence

YXB v TNO

[2015] EWHC 826 (QB) 25/03/2015

Reporting the Courts and Contempt

YXB v TNO

[2015] EWHC 826 (QB) 25/03/2015

Qadir v Associated Newspapers Ltd

[2012] EWHC 2606 (QB); [2013] EMLR 15 05/10/2012

Injunctive Relief

YXB v TNO

[2015] EWHC 826 (QB) 25/03/2015

5RB Talks

5RB Talks: Cardiff

13 Mar 2015
With Christina Michalos KC, William Bennett KC & David Hirst

In 5RB News

21 Nov 2023

Statement in open court in Hague v TML

20 Oct 2023

5RB tops rankings in Chambers & Partners

16 Oct 2023

George v Cannell in the Supreme Court

Appeal will examine law of malicious falsehood

5 Oct 2023

5RB named Tier 1 set in Defamation and privacy by The Legal 500

21 Jul 2023

Strike out judgment in Davidoff v Hargrave

12 Jul 2023

5RB shortlisted in Legal 500 Bar Awards 2023

4 Jul 2023

Davidoff v Hargrave trial of preliminary issues

10 May 2023

Stoute v News Group Newspapers Ltd

30 Nov 2022

Panorama reporter wins libel claim

John Ware awarded £90,000 in damages

15 Nov 2022

Substantial damages for reality show victim

Channel 5 apologies to Ms Amel Fridhi

7 Oct 2022

5RB named top set by The Legal 500

Directory rankings also released

4 Oct 2022

Apology to John Ware

Statement in open court

11 Aug 2022

Rachel Riley decision upheld

Laura Murray's appeal dismissed

20 Jul 2022

Appeal in Riley v Murray

20 Dec 2021

Rachel Riley wins libel action against Laura Murray

TV presenter wins Twitter libel case

12 Nov 2021

Permission to appeal granted in George v Cannell & Anor

9 Nov 2021

Judgment handed down in George v Cannell & Anor

Saini J dismisses claims in libel, slander per se and malicious falsehood

20 Apr 2021

Defendant’s appeal dismissed in Millett v Corbyn

Court of Appeal dismisses Jeremy Corbyn’s appeal against decisions that publication complained of consisted of statements of fact, not opinion, and defamed the Claimant

19 Apr 2021

Can’t Pay? We’ll Take it Away! Statement in Open Court

Channel 5 apologises and agrees to pay substantial damages

5 Feb 2021

Barrister of the week: William Bennett QC

William Bennett profiled by The Lawyer

1 Feb 2021

Duke of Sussex libel settlement

Unilateral statement in open court

10 Dec 2020

Sir James & Lady Deirdre Dyson v Associated Newspapers

Statement in open court

10 Dec 2020

The Times pays libel damages to Barbara Hewson

The Times accepts that death threats allegation not true

20 Nov 2020

5RB Wins Defamation, Privacy & Data Protection Awards

22 Jul 2020

Statements in Open Court for Labour Party whistleblowers and John Ware

Pending claims against Labour Party by seven whistleblowers and journalist John Ware conclude

10 Jul 2020

Court determines meaning of defamatory statements in libel case against Jeremy Corbyn

The meaning of Jeremy Corbyn MP's statements about Richard Millett held to be statements of fact and to be defamatory at common law

24 Apr 2020

Court determines meaning in Rachel Riley v Laura Murray libel case

The meaning of the tweet complained of held to be statements of fact and opinion and to be defamatory at common law

31 Jan 2020

Statement in Open Court for Licensing Officer

Claim by Wajed Iqbal concludes

14 Jan 2020

Sir James & Lady Dyson v Associated Newspapers: trial of meaning

High Court to hear argument in a Trial of Preliminary Issues of the meaning of news articles

24 Oct 2019

Alison Morgan QC vindicated re her role in the prosecution of Ben Stokes

Conclusion of claims against The Times, the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail

4 Jul 2019

QC succeeds at trial of preliminary issue

Claimant's meaning upheld, article found to defame at common law and to have a tendency to cause serious harm

1 Jul 2019

Euromillions winner succeeds in privacy claim

Defendant ordered to pay £10,000 in general and £2,500 in aggravated damages

11 Apr 2018

Permission to Appeal granted in “Can’t Pay? We’ll Take it Away!” case

Arnold J grants the Claimants permission to appeal on quantum

22 Feb 2018

‘Can’t Pay? We’ll Take It Away!’ Claimants win £20,000

Judgment handed down in privacy case  

6 Feb 2018

5RB ‘stands above the competition’

Leaders and juniors praised in new edition of Who's Who Legal

11 Jan 2018

Katie Hopkins refused permission to appeal

Sharp LJ refuses PTA against decision of Warby J; also refuses permission in Guise v Shah

2 Nov 2017

“The pre-eminent set”: Chambers UK

5RB and members recommended for Defamation & Privacy and Data Protection in 2018 Chambers UK Bar Guide

11 Oct 2017

5RB ‘dominates the field’ in Legal 500

Chambers and members recommended for Defamation & Privacy, Data Protection, and Media and Entertainment work in legal directory

25 May 2017

“Can’t Pay? We’ll Take it Away!” summary judgment application dismissed

Privacy claim to proceed to trial

11 Apr 2017

Supreme Court unanimously dismisses appeals by media defendants

Recoverability of CFA success fees and ATE premiums upheld

10 Mar 2017

Jack Monroe wins libel claim against Katie Hopkins

Monroe awarded £24,000 over two tweets

19 Dec 2016

FlyMeNow awarded ‘minimal’ damages

Defences of qualified privilege and justification fail but damages reduced to £10

22 Feb 2016

Paul Burrell wins privacy claim

Max Clifford ordered to pay £5,000 in damages

7 Jan 2016

Claimant succeeds in latest serious harm trial

Email sent to 124 people found to have caused serious harm to reputation

24 Apr 2015

Mosque dispute claimants awarded £45,000 each

Fourth Defendant found to have defamed the claimants by causing publication on a website and distributing a dossier of documents

22 Apr 2015

Privy Council hears libel appeal

Board considers Reynolds defence

26 Mar 2015

Footballer refused privacy injunction

Warby J finds material non-disclosure in alleged "blackmail" claim

Contact