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May 18, 2015

Mail loses JK Rowling appeal

Categories: Defamation, News

Tags: Defamation, offer of amends, statement in open court

'Harry Potter' author permitted to read statement in open court following libel settlement, including disputed reference to dishonesty


Associated Newspapers, publisher of the Daily Mail and Mail Online, has failed to overturn the judgment of Tugendhat J that JK Rowling could read a proposed statement in open court.

Joanne Murray, better known under her JK Rowling alias, sued the publisher over a September 2013 article on the Mail Online entitled “How JK Rowling’s sob story about her past as a single mother has left the churchgoers who cared for her upset and bewildered“, and given a very similar article in a two-page spread in the Daily Mail.

After initially denying that the article was defamatory at all or that her complaint had any merit, the publisher eventually made an unqualified offer of amends under the Defamation Act 1996, agreeing to pay her compensation and to make a suitable correction and sufficient apology.

The parties were unable to agree the terms of the correction and apology and Ms Murray applied to read a statement in open court about the claim and the settlement. In April 2014 Tugendhat J allowed the application on the basis of the correspondence, without a hearing.

The proposed statement set out the pleaded defamatory meaning of the words complained of, accepted by the publisher to be completely untrue, which was that Ms Murray “had given a knowingly false account of her time as a single mother in Edinburgh in which she had falsely and inexcusably accused her fellow churchgoers of behaving in a bigoted, unchristian manner towards her, of stigmatising her and cruelly taunting her for being a single mother“, and went on to state that the Claimant’s article was “in fact, neither false nor dishonest“. The publisher appealed, in particular disputing that Ms Murray should be permitted to say that her article was not “dishonest“.

The Court of Appeal has now rejected that appeal, Sharp LJ stating that the reference to Ms Murray not being dishonest “is no more than the expression in ordinary and less formal language of the correctly identified pleaded meaning“, and accepting the submission of Justin Rushbrooke QC that “it is impossible to see how the claimant could have given an account which she knew to be false (and which contained false and inexcusable allegations against her fellow churchgoers) without being dishonest.

Ms Murray hopes to finally have her statement in open court read soon.

5RB‘s Justin Rushbrooke QC and Richard Munden, instructed by Schillings, acted for Ms Murray.

Links

Rowling libel case challenge lost – MailOnline

Daily Mail fails to stop JK Rowling court statement – BBC

Daily Mail publisher loses challenge to JK Rowling ruling – Guardian

J.K. Rowling permitted to read statement in court settlement – New!