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Defamation and Reputation Management Law

To even the most casual follower of defamation and reputation management law in the UK, this year has been an exciting one.

Published on 8 November 2022
Written by Francois Gill
Francois Gill

Strategic litigation against public participation - 'Slapp'

Attention was drawn to ‘Slapp’ – strategic litigation against public participation – lawsuits by wealthy individuals and organisations designed to intimidate authors and publishers who would need to fund multiple stages of litigation at ruinous cost.   

One case deemed a Slapp action by critics was that concerning Catherine Belton’s book, Putin’s People, published by Harper Collins. Author and publisher settled with claimant Roman Abramovich, represented by Harbottle & Lewis, regarding claims made about his acquisition of Chelsea Football Club, and the defendants agreed to revisions.

Another lawsuit brought by Rosneft, represented by Carter Ruck, was discontinued after preliminary judgment finding three out of four claims not actionable. Harper Collins, represented by Wiggin, stated that they faced no costs nor damages payable to the claimants in resolving the claims – charitable donations were instead paid, and a full trial was averted. 

In other news, Aaron Banks, represented by Kingsley Napley, lost his libel action against journalist Carole Cadwalladr, represented by RPC, who alleged that Banks had undisclosed Russian Government-linked contacts and his financial affairs were opaque.

Banks at least felt vindicated that the judge did not consider his lawsuit to be a ‘Slapp’ and has been granted leave to appeal. However, both outcomes were deemed favourable to journalism. 

Wagatha Christie

The case of the year, however, had to be ‘Wagatha Christie’, the suit brought by Rebekah Vardy against Colleen Rooney, represented by Liverpool law firm Brabners, who accused Vardy of leaking details about her to the press.

The trial, lost by Vardy, was a closely watched tabloid spectacle, fought by celebrities who could afford to lose and ripe with comedic vignettes, a summer distraction from a grim global outlook. 

Data privacy and a right to be forgotten

Away from this more traditional defamation fare, we are seeing an uptick in work concerning data privacy, the publication of allegedly inaccurate data, and the so-called ‘right to be forgotten’ in online searches and business intelligence databases.

Much work of this kind is often behind the scenes and can involve injunctions to remove client data from international websites to prevent harassment and taking down imposter social media sites.

High net worth and corporate clients may ask for data audits to strengthen online profiles and guard against media intrusion.

Law firms doing notable work in these areas include Harbottle & Lewis, Osborne Clarke and Pinsent Masons

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