Preliminary issues determined in ‘The Lost King’ film claim

Judgment was handed down today following a trial of preliminary issues on 29 February 2024 in a libel claim brought by Richard Taylor against Pathe Productions Limited, Baby Cow Productions Limited and Steve Coogan.

The claim arises from Mr Taylor’s portrayal in the 2022 film ‘The Lost King’, a dramatisation of the search for the remains of Richard III. As summarised in the judgment: “It tells the story from the perspective of Philippa Langley, who was shown in the Film as the driving force behind the search that led to the discovery of the remains.” Mr Taylor is the former Director of Corporate Affairs and Planning and former Deputy Registrar for the University of Leicester.

HHJ Lewis (sitting as a Judge of the High Court) held that the Film bore the following meanings, defamatory of Mr Taylor at common law:

  1. The claimant knowingly misrepresented facts to the media and the public concerning the search for, and discovery of, Richard III’s remains. He did so by presenting a false account of the University’s role in the project, and marginalising Ms Langley’s role, despite her major contribution to the find.
  2. The claimant’s conduct towards Ms Langley in respect of the project was smug, unduly dismissive and patronising.

The first meaning was held to be a statement of fact. The second meaning was a statement of opinion.

The Judge found that the film did not bear the meaning that the claimant was a misogynist or sexist. He also held that: “In respect of the mimicking of a hunchback, I do not think the viewer would take this to be an example of the claimant behaving in a disablist manner.

5RB’s William Bennett KC and Victoria Jolliffe, instructed by Shakespeare Martineau, act for the Claimant; Andrew Caldecott KC and Hope Williams, instructed by Wiggin LLP, act for the Defendants.

The judgment is available here.