Collyer Bristow seals victory for cricketer in Twitter libel case

A cricketer has won the first-ever Twitter libel payout in a case brought on his behalf by Collyer Bristow.

Dismissing criticism of libel tourism, Mr Justice Bean found in favour of claimant Chris Cairns, who argued that a Tweet accusing him of match fixing was defamatory (6 March 2012).

He was represented by One Brick Court’s Andrew Caldecott QC and Ian Helme, instructed by Collyer Bristow partner Rhory Robertson.

The author of the 24-word Tweet, former Indian Premier League (IPL) chairman Lalit Modi, had turned to Fladgate partner Lawrence Abramson, who instructed Ron Thwaites QC and Jonathan Price of Ely Place Chambers to plead justification.

The High Court heard that between 35 and 95 people in the UK read the Tweet, which was then repeated on a cricketing magazine’s website for a number of hours and seen by up to 1,500 people.

Cairns, who was awarded £90,000 in damages, had told the trial that the allegation – posted in January 2010 – had reduced his “distinguished” career “to dust”.

He was removed from the playing roster for the IPL because of long-standing injury, but Modi alleged it was due to match-fixing investigations.

Bean J said: “In my judgment Mr Modi has singularly failed to provide any reliable evidence that Mr Cairns was involved in match fixing or spot fixing, or even that there were strong grounds for suspicion that he was.”

Robertson at Collyer Bristow confirmed that his firm is expecting to receive around £1.5m in costs from Modi.

He said: “The suggestion that this was libel tourism is false. Mr Cairns’ children grew up in this country and he would be living here, but for a family illness.

“It’s right to record that he was found to be an entirely credible and truthful witness.

“I think undoubtedly these kind of cases are going to happen more and more because of Twitter’s viral nature and the lack of checks and balances. This case shows how dangerous it can be.”