Civil Fraud Quarterly Round-Up: Q1 2021
Singer and television personality Tulisa Contostavlos and actor and comedian Russell Brand have successfully brought claims against a national newspaper over defamatory articles published in the UK press. The details and outcomes of each case can be seen below.
Tulisa Contostavlos and Daniel Peter Simpson v News Group Newspapers LTD (2014)
News Group Newspapers Ltd (N) published an article in its newspaper and online about Tulisa Contostavlos (T) and Premiership footballer Daniel Simpson (D). The articles concerned T’s and D’s romantic relationship and its effect on D's girlfriend (W).
The words complained of were to the effect that T had stolen W's boyfriend while W was three months pregnant with D's second child and that T was a home-wrecker. The article went further to say that W was still in a relationship with D, that D had cheated on her, that T had been to their family home, and that D had a young daughter and was throwing away his family for T.
The defamatory meaning that T attributed to the words complained of in her particulars of claim was that she had entered into a romantic relationship with D knowing that he was in a stable, long-term and committed relationship with W who lived with D and their daughter as a family and who, as D knew, was pregnant with their next child, and had therefore wrecked the family life of D, W and their daughter. The defamatory meaning which D attributed to the words complained of was that by entering into a romantic relationship with T he was unfaithful to W with whom he was in a stable, long-term and committed relationship, living together with her and their daughter as a family, and who, as he knew, was pregnant with their next child.
The court held in favour of T and D, finding that the words complained of bore the defamatory meaning that they had attributed to them.
Russell Brand v News Group Newspapers LTD (Statement in Open Court) (2014)
Well-known performer Russell Brand (R) was in a committed relationship with his girlfriend (K). News Group Newspapers LTD (N) published a front-page exclusive article under a heading printed in one-and-a-half inch high lettering claiming that R had deceived both the general public and K by falsely proclaiming that he was faithful to K while at the same time being involved in a sexual relationship with another woman. The article was repeated in other media.
R contacted N through his solicitors on the day of publication and asked for the article to be withdrawn and an apology published. After N refused to oblige, R issued libel proceedings.
N accepted that the content of the article was untrue and defamatory and should never have been published. N undertook never to republish the allegations complained of, and to apologise to R and K for the distress and embarrassment the article had caused. In addition, N agreed to publish an apology and pay R substantial damages in addition to his legal costs.
These two cases represent a victory for claimants in libel actions post-Leveson and a warning to the national press that high profile figures will continue to pursue claims in circumstances where defamatory articles are published.
We await more cases in the coming months with particular interest in seeing the impact of the Defamation Act 2013 on claims before the courts.
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