Ely Place silk wins libel case over Telegraph book review

Ely Place’s Ronald Thwaites QC has won a High Court libel victory for art journalist and author Sarah Thornton, after Mr Justice Tugendhat denied The Telegraph Media Group application for summary judgment.

Thwaites was instructed by Taylor Hampton on behalf of the author of Seven Days in the Art World, a book that describes key situations in the contemporary art scene.

David Price QC, named partner of David Price Solicitors & Advocates, acted on behalf of the newspaper, which published a review of the book that Thornton claimed was libellous and contained malicious falsehood.

Canadian-born Thornton alleged that  the review, published in print and online in November 2008, contained material that was damaging to her reputation.

In a letter of complaint to the editor of The Telegraph Thornton wrote: “Lynn Barber’s review of my book Seven Days in the Art World contains two factual errors that are damaging to my reputation. It also contains further significant inaccuracies that undermine the authority of the review as a whole”.

The Telegraph, which at first denied error on Barber’s behalf, apologised 10 months after the first publication, and six months after the review had been removed from the website.

In his judgment Tugendhat J said: “The malice that I’ve found on the part of Ms Barber is a serious aggravating factor. And the manner in which her complaint was dealt by her, and by The Telegraph generally, is a further aggravating factor. In ordinary language she was fobbed off.”

He added: “On 29 June 2011 The Telegraphissued an application for summary judgment on the basis that the allegations of malice had no real prospect of success. This is not a satisfactory way of proceeding”.

The hearing took place at the beginning of July.