According to today’s ‘Independent’ an author who launched a libel suit over a series of unfavourable reviews on Amazon is facing a huge legal bill after a judge struck off his case.
Chris McGrath, an ‘online entrepreneur’, tried to sue Vaughan Jones over a series of reviews on the Amazon website about his self-published satirical book “The Attempted Murder of God”.
Amazon, the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins and his foundation were also named as defendants because they carried the reviews. The defendants applied to have the case thrown out. Judge Maloney dismissed the case against Amazon, Richard Dawkins and his foundation whilst throwing out the vast majority of the case against Mr Jones. Mr McGrath will now face legal bills of around £100,000. The author wrecked his own case by posting defences under pseudonyms, but many argue that the result highlights the UK’s archaic libel laws once again, in which the libelled end up paying disproportionate costs.
Naturally, this got me interested in the history of libel, so I read the above book, which is stuffed with both serious and hilarious cases, from Lord Alfred Douglas suing Winston Churchill for his report on the Battle of Jutland to a listener suing the BBC for a disappointing version (too many breathy ‘H’s) of the ‘St Matthew Passion’ in 1933.
There’s also a wonderful tale about the Daily Mail VS a spirit medium and someone suing Madame Tussaud for a bad likeness. What’s fascinating is that once a seemingly trivial libel enters the courts it must be taken very seriously, resulting in the spectacle of prosecution and defence building bizarre arguments to support quite bonkers hypotheses. Are there any other great libel casebooks? This one’s a gem – seek it out.