Libel rule 1: know who sues

The first rule of libel is to know who sues.  You can add another name to the long list: the footballer Cristiano Ronaldo, ex-Manchester United and Portuguese International.

He has this week won undisclosed libel damages, and presumably costs, against the Daily Telegraph.  It said on paper and online in July 2008 that he was in LA and on crutches but went to a nightclub, danced and drank champagne.  Not so, the paper now admits and apologises.

Ferguson, Geller, Cleese and John

As a reminder, the other high profile people who sue include Ronaldo’s then boss Sir Alex Ferguson, Uri Geller, John Cleese and Elton John.

It shows how plodding libel actions can be.  This was published over two years ago but we only get round to closing it this week.  During that time, you can bet, the lawyers’ meters were running.

Quicker procedures needed

Libel needs to be further streamlined.  The procedures were reformed under the Woolf reforms.  These included making judges responsible for managing cases in court, not just listening to them.  It also included taking away the right to a jury trial.

Another streamlining of the procedures will, I hope, be part of the Defamation Reform Bill the coalition has promised to bring in during this parliament.

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