Channel Four libel case to be heard without jury

The Court of Appeal has upheld a High Court decision that said the libel case Fiddes v Channel Four and ors should be heard without a jury.

The Master of the Rolls Lord Neuberger presided over the three-strong appeal panel that included the deputy head of the Court of Appeal Lord Justice Kay and Lord Justice Sedley.

The panel has not yet given its reasoning through a judgment.

Last month defendants Channel Four, Studio Lambert and Jane Preston requested that the case being brought against them by Matthew Fiddes be decided by a judge alone without a jury.

Mr Justice Tugendhat ruled in favour of the broadcaster, saying that costs needed to be reined in (2 June 2010).

The judge stated: “Vast as they are, these costs are, I’m afraid, not untypical of libel litigation. Not many cases get to trial […] and when they do get to trial, the costs are enormous. Here it’s in excess of £3m.

“Nevertheless, if there are savings in costs to be made, even at this late stage, they can be made.”

The case is being brought by Matthew Fiddes, who alleges that Channel Four, Studio Lambert and Jane Preston libelled him in a documentary about the family of late pop star Michael Jackson.

The documentary, which was named The Jacksons are Coming and was first aired in November 2008, followed Jackson’s brother Tito and his entourage when they stayed in North Devon for five weeks as they apparently looked for a home in the area.

Fiddes, who had known the Jacksons for a number of years, took part in the show but is claiming that he was misrepresented, with the programme suggesting that he tipped the press off about the Jacksons’ whereabouts for personal gain.

Aslan Charles Kousetta partner Susan Aslan instructed Adrian Page QC of 5RB for the defendants while M Law partner Chris Hutchings has instructed Ron Thwaites QC of Ely Place for the claimant.