Court of Appeal overturns Simpson strike out

Whether plea of justification meets sting to be determined at trial

The Court of Appeal has today overturned the decision of Mr Justice Warby to strike out Mirror Group’s plea of justification in the libel claim brought by Leicester City footballer Danny Simpson.

Mr Simpson is suing the Daily Mirror over an article concerning his relationship with the singer Tulisa Contostavlos. The article, under the headline “Tulisa is just a homewrecker…I’m devastated” was based on comments by Mr Simpson’s former girlfriend Stephanie Ward  about Mr Simpson’s behaviour. At a trial in January 2015 Warby J determined meaning, and held that Mirror Group’s defence of justification could not support that meaning.

The Court of Appeal ruled today that the judge had wrongly concluded that Mirror Group’s inability to prove certain features of the defamatory meaning was fatal to its defence. The court noted that the essence of the defamatory sting of the article “surely consists in the assertion of a selfish disruption of that committed family relationship with father, mother, child and another child to come “. Whether the Mirror could meet this sting was a question for the judge at trial, having heard the evidence.

A full case report is here.