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.
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.
CEDR accredited mediator.
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.”