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Three news organisations have made the rare move of instructing counsel to intervene as a third party in a defamation case in the Court of Appeal in order to protect the ’fair comment’ defence.
Associated Newspapers, owner of the Daily Mail and The Mail on Sunday, Times Newspapers and Guardian Media Group (GMG) have mandated Reynolds Porter Chamberlain (RPC) partner Jaron Lewis to intervene in the appeal of Jason Spiller & Ors v Craig Joseph & Ors.
The application to intervene was made after the original judgment rejected the defendants’ fair comment defence. The application states that “the issues to be decided will have profound consequences for media publications”.
The appeal concerns the defamation of a pop group by an entertainment booking service, which criticised the group on its website.
RPC has instructed 1 Brick Court’s Andrew Caldecott QC. David Price Solicitors is acting for Spiller and co-defendant 1311 Events, the company of which he is a director. Howard Kennedy litigation partner Christopher Donnison is acting for the claimants.
GMG director of editorial legal services Gill Phillips said that, while interventions of this kind are unusual, the circumstances in this instance justified the move.
“It’s not common but has been done before,” she said. “There are several important general points of principle raised that would have implications for the media in terms of the fair comment defence.
“There’s a need to make sure that the wider general principles are looked at by the court.”