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Court of Appeal to rule on what is capable of being defamatory

We continue to act for former footballer Paul Elliott in a libel claim brought against him by Richard Rufus over words used on the website of Kick It Out, of which Mr Elliott was a trustee. DPSA has argued that the words used are not capable of being defamatory, but an application to strike out the claim was rejected by Dingemans J last October. Permission to appeal the decision was further refused by Sir Stephen Sedley.

Now the Court of Appeal has granted permission to appeal the decision of Dingemans J. In a ruling on 8 May, Maurice Kay LJ, sitting with Rafferty LJ, said that it was arguable that the judge had been wrong and accepted the submissions of David Price QC that an appeal has a real chance of success. The matter will next be heard before 3 judges in the Court of Appeal.

The case raises questions of the type of behaviour that would lower someone in the eyes of right-thinking members of a modern society a test of whether something is defamatory. DPSA has argued consistently that to publicise inappropriate behaviour by a public figure cannot be blameworthy, and so to claim they have done so cannot be defamatory.

In addition, the court has taken the unusual step of directing that if it is judged that the words are capable of being defamatory, then the Court of Appeal will rule on whether the words are defamatory in this particular case. DPSA had argued that this approach had significant benefits in terms of reducing the costs of the case.

Appellant’s written statement

Note of judgment

Draft order