The Daily Telegraph has successfully defended a libel claim over an article about the Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding day hair style.
Note: This article is from the Guardian.
This article titled “Telegraph defends royal hairdresser libel case via Early Resolution scheme” was written by John Plunkett and Josh Halliday, for guardian.co.uk on Monday 3rd September 2012 16.01 UTC
The Daily Telegraph has successfully defended a libel claim over an article about the Duchess of Cambridge’s hair, which was heard by an independent arbitrator rather than a high court judge.
The Telegraph was threatened with a libel action by the owner of the London-based hairdressing salon Richard Ward Hair & Metrospa over an article published on 4 July headlined: “Is it scissors at dawn for the royal crimpers?”
The article carried an interview with James Pryce, the stylist behind Kate Middleton’s hair for the royal wedding, who left the hairdressing salon in acrimonious circumstances last year.
Richard Ward complained that the article portrayed Pryce as having exclusively designed Middleton’s hair for the big day when, in fact, nine others had been involved. He also said the article libelled his salon as vindictive employers who had “stitched shut” Pryce’s lips to prevent him talking about his celebrity clients. However, the independent arbitration scheme found that the article was not defamatory.
The libel case broke new legal ground because it was tried before two lay assessors and the experienced media lawyer, Desmond Browne QC, rather than the high court in London. The Telegraph and Ward agreed to settle the dispute through Early Resolution, a scheme set up by the former Times lawyer Alastair Brett as an alternative to costly high court hearings.
David Price QC, who acted for the Daily Telegraph, said the case took little more than a month to resolve, without witnesses giving oral evidence.
“Any way of quickly deciding whether something is defamatory or not before it gets to court has to be commended,” he said of the scheme.
Legal experts said the new scheme was a more cost-effective avenue for newspaper groups, compared with the fees involved in high court disputes. The scheme is understood to have cost the Daily Telegraph around £4,000 to use, not including legal fees.
The claim was tried through writing only, with the assessors and Browne judging the case on written submissions rather than oral representations from lawyers. Lord Justice Leveson has repeatedly expressed his interest in an early resolution scheme during his inquiry into press standards.
David Banks, the media law expert and co-author of McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists, said: “It’s a way forward, which I assume many newspapers would be very much in favour of because it reduces the withering costs of libel actions. Claimants would also want a speedy settlement, they don’t want issues dragged through the courts, and so one would hope this is a road both sides can carry on down.”
• This article was amended on 5 September 2012 to reflect the fact that Richard Ward did not sue the Daily Telegraph for libel before going through independent arbitration.
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