Libel Settlement: Gilligan v Faber & Faber – publisher of Ken Livingstone’s autobiography apologises to journalist – Isabel Hudson

21 07 2012

Following Boris Johnson’s victory in the libel courts this week in successfully striking out the complaint brought by RMT leader Bob Crow, his Mayoral adversary Ken Livingstone has also found himself the subject of a libel complaint.

And in an echo of the results in May’s elections, Livingstone did not fare so well as his Conservative counterpart in relation to the complaint which he (or in fact, the publishers of his biography) found himself having to defend.

Andrew Gilligan, former Evening Standard reporter and now the London editor of the Daily and Sunday Telegraph, had been accused by Ken Livingstone of making false statements in the Evening Standard about Livingstone’s time at City Hall. Livingstone had claimed in his autobiography – entitled (rather ironically in retrospect) “You Can’t Say That” that Gilligan was “shown the door” by the Evening Standard, after publishing “lies” about the allocation of grants by Mr Livingstone’s former administration and his former race adviser Lee Jasper. Livingstone also stated in his book that the Evening Standard itself had published editorials which repudiated Gilligan’s stories by confirming “there had been no corruption or cronyism at City Hall.”

Livingstone’s publishers, Faber & Faber, formally apologised to Mr Gilligan in a Statement in Open Court read on 18 July 2012.

Mr Gilligan’s Advocate told Tugendhat J was that in fact, no such editorials had been published by the Evening Standard, while it was Gilligan who chose to leave the newspaper in order to take up a post with the Telegraph. In addition to apologising, Faber & Faber agreed to pay an undisclosed amount of damages to Mr Gilligan, and to amend the paperback editions of Livingstone’s book.

Comment

At a time when the laws of libel are under almost constant attack from the media, it is interesting to note that here a prominent journalist apparently did not hesitate to pray in aid those very same laws to bring a complaint himself. Gilligan recognised that a libel complaint provided a means to vindicate his reputation by ensuring that the true position was made clear, stating “I hope this makes it clear to Mr Livingstone and to anyone tempted to follow his example that I will always defend my journalism.”

The case is a timely reminder that our defamation laws provide an important check and balance on a powerful media and an important means of redress to individuals who have been traduced by it.

Isabel Hudson is a partner at Carter-Ruck


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2 responses

22 07 2012
Evan Harris

Isabel Hudson says, “At a time when the laws of libel are under almost constant attack from the media, it is interesting to note that here a prominent journalist apparently did not hesitate to pray in aid those very same laws to bring a complaint himself.”

She appears to be suggesting that calls for effective libel reform are in some way invalidated by the fact that someone uses the current law for remedy; or perhaps suggesting that those in the media calling for libel reform are some how hypocritical because one (or more) journalist sues for libel under the existing laws.

It is hard to know whether that that trite assertion, or the even more facile one that followed (“The case is a timely reminder that our defamation laws provide an important check and balance on a powerful media and an important means of redress to individuals who have been traduced by it”), actually deserves a response, except to say that it would not have passed muster in my old high school’s debating society or even in the Commons.

For the avoidance of doubt, the calls for effective reform of our libel laws have not generally come from the media, and certainly not exclusively from then. The Libel Reform Campaign, for example, is not funded or otherwise organisationally linked to the British media.

It is also the case that the Libel Reform Campaign does not, and has not, called for the end of the right to bring defamation actions. Under our reforms, the facts of this case suggest that this claimant would still succeed in the same way as now.

There are arguments to be had about the need for reform (although few without a vested financial interest in the claimant camp argue against any reform), and certainly good arguments to be had against suggested specific reform (as Alastair Mullis and others in this blog have set out), but surely the debate deserves more than “journalist X has just won a case so you are wrong” argumentation.

23 07 2012
Law and Media Round Up – 23 July 2012 « Inforrm's Blog

[…] On 18 July 2012 there was a Statement in Open Court [pdf] in the case of Gilligan v Faber & Faber, arising out of comments made in Ken Livingstone’s auto-biography.  We had a post about this statement. […]

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