Comedian Wins Libel Case in 'Rare' Jury Trial over Daily Mirror's 'Racist'

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Comedian Frankie Boyle won his libel lawsuit against the UK Daily Mirror, according to the Guardian.

As iMediaEthics wrote last week, Boyle sued over a July 19, 2011 article headlined “Channel 4: We are back on the Boyle.”  The report called Boyle “racist,” which the Mirror defended as “honest comment and truth.”  Boyle argued his jokes “mock the view of people who believe that.”

The Mirror also reported Boyle was “forced to quit” a program called Mock the Week, which Boyle said was defamatory.  According to the Guardian’s Oct. 22 report, Boyle was “awarded” more than £54,000 in total for the “racist” and “forced to quit” comments, along with “costs.”

Mirror Group Newspapers’ lawyers called Boyle “callous” and “insensitive” for some of his comments, according to the Independent. The Daily Mail reported that Boyle’s lawyer, David Sherborne, said it would have been OK to describe Boyle’s jokes as “vile,” ‘tasteless,” and “offensive” — just not “racist.”

The Guardian noted that Boyle tweeted about the ruling, writing

“I’m very happy with the jury’s decision and their unanimous rejection of the Mirror’s allegation that I am a racist.”

He added that

“Racism is still a very serious problem in society which is why I’ve made a point of always being anti-racist in my life and work…and that’s why I brought this action.”

Boyle also tweeted that he is “giving my damages to charity.”

According to the Guardian, the case was significant because it “was one of the only libel cases to be heard before a jury in the past decade.”  In an Oct. 15 article, the Guardian explained:

“Jury trials for libel have been phased out over the past decade and Boyle’s is believed to be one of only a handful to have come before the high court in the past decade.”

The blog Inforrm (The International forum for responsible media) added that the two last “libel jury” trials were in June 2012 (see iMediaEthics’ report on that suit by Luke Cooper) and July 2009.  Cooper’s attorney Louis Charalambous wrote this past summer, after Cooper’s win, about what he views as the importance of having jury trials in libel cases. Concerning that case, he wrote:

“The advantages of a jury trial in the case were obvious: this mode of trial forced the parties to focus not on pleadings but on the disputed facts, which in the end boiled down to a short on-the-spot interview and follow-up call by the journalist to Cooper.”

Interestingly, iMediaEthics notes that as of 4:35 PM EST on Oct. 22, the article is still posted on the Mirror’s website.

At the top of the article is a paragraph that references the lawsuit:

“Frankie Boyle is taking legal proceedings against us for the description of him as a ‘racist comedian’. He claims it is untrue and defamatory. We are defending this claim on the basis of truth and fair comment. We are also defending his claim that we libelled him by suggesting that ‘he was forced to quit Mock the Week’ in 2009.”

iMediaEthics has written to the Mirror’s Ben Rankin asking if the Mirror has to unpublish or apologize as well as pay because of the ruling and will update with any response.

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Comedian Wins Libel Case in ‘Rare’ Jury Trial over Daily Mirror’s ‘Racist’ Comment

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