Saturday, December 13, 2008

Elton's Libel Claim Thrown Out


A high court judge today struck out a claim for libel made by Sir Elton John against the Guardian newspaper.

John had been seeking an apology and damages after he was the subject of the A Peek at the Diary Of … column written by Marina Hyde for the Weekend magazine supplement of the Saturday Guardian on 5 July.

During today's interim judgment hearing at the high court in London Justice Tugendhat agreed with the Guardian that the article did not carry the factual meaning that John had claimed.

He also refused John permission to appeal and ordered John to pay costs.

The singer had accused Hyde of defamation and using a "gratuitously offensive, nasty and snide tone" in the piece.

John claimed that it poked fun at his celebrity fundraising, suggested his commitment to the Elton John Aids Foundation was insincere and that his annual fundraising White Tie and Tiara Ball was used to meet celebrities and for self-promotion rather than raising money for his charity.

Guardian News & Media, publisher of both the Guardian newspaper and MediaGuardian.co.uk, argued that the article represented a satirical piece of comment rather than a factual account and made an application to strike out the factual meaning of his claim.

In his judgment Justice Tugendhat said he accepted the submission by Gavin Millar QC, for the Guardian, that the words complained of were "obviously a form of teasing" and that no reader could sensibly think they actually meant that money raised by the John's charity ball was used to cover costs and only a small proportion actually went to charity.

"I accept the submissions of Mr Millar. The words complained of ... could not be understood by a reasonable reader of the Guardian Weekend section as containing the serious allegation pleaded," the judgement added.

William McCormick, from London law firm Carter-Ruck, representing John, indicated that they may seek leave to take the case to the court of appeal.

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