April 30, 2003

GEORGE GALLOWAY may not find

GEORGE GALLOWAY may not find it easy to win his threatened lawsuit, writes media lawyer Dan Tench:

The proper course, the court may consider, was for the story to be published fairly and with balance and for Galloway to be given an opportunity to respond. Arguably, this is what happened.

The problem for Galloway is that he now appears committed to a libel action. If he were to decline to bring or withdraw such an action or if he were to lose it even on the qualified privilege defence (which would not legally give any credence to the allegations), he may - perhaps unfairly - be widely seen to be culpable of the charges against him. Not only would this damage his reputation, but it is likely to be very costly for him.

The law now recognises much more than before that important matters and allegations should be ventilated in the press. Provided this is done fairly - with a moderate tone, balanced coverage and a right to reply - no action in defamation is likely to succeed. Galloway may come to learn, as fellow politicians Archer, Aitken and Hamilton did before him, to beware of the libel courts.

Posted by Tim Blair at April 30, 2003 01:23 AM