The first libel case in the new Supreme Court, Joseph v Spiller was heard on 26-27 July.
The case concerns Motown tribute act, the Gillettes, who sued after their former agent Jason Spiller posted on his website that the band were not professional and that they consider contractual terms and conditions to “hold no water in legal terms”.
William Bennett, representing Craig Joseph, a singer for the group who arranged their bookings, has argued that a “fair comment” defence should be rejected because the “comment” related to a false fact and no reference was made in the post to the truthful facts upon which the comment was based. In contrast lawyers for the agent, Spiller, contended that the false fact was not materially detrimental to Joseph and thus the defence should not fail. He further appealed to the justices to clarify and simplify the meaning of the “fair comment” defence, including renaming it “comment” to avoid misleading juries, since the defence protects both fair and unfair comments equally. A ruling, which could have serious effect on future definitions of fair comment, is expected in August or early September.