Malice in wonderland

Footballer and man David Beckham has had a libel claim rejected by a California court. Beckham claimed that celebrity gossip magazine In Touch had defamed him by reporting he had paid prostitute Irma Nici $10,000 for sex.

While the magazine’s publishers did not attempt to defend the truth of the claims, District Judge Manuel Real found that such a story was in the public interest (as Beckham is a public figure), and there was no evidence of malice in the magazine’s story, based on an interview with Nici.

Beckham’s lawyers have vowed to appeal the decision. Why he didn’t just sue in England, we’ll never know. Top US celeb sites National Inquirer and TMZ are both blocked in the UK, as their publishers fear the long reach of England’s infamous libel laws. At very least, Beckham would not have had to prove malice — not a requirement in English law. It would, however, be interesting to see if an English court would agree with District Judge Rael’s defintions of “public interest” and “public figure”.

Meanwhile, back on this sceptred isle, Press Gazette’s Grey Cardigan points us to a fantastic (and I mean that literally) “warning” sent by Shaun Robinson, PR man for United Utilities in Narnia, sorry, the north-west of England:


“This advisory relates to stories in today’s Daily Mirror, Daily Telegraph and Daily Express, which are based on a false and inaccurate story on the Lancashire Telegraph website. The stories falsely assert that a hosepipe ban is expected in the North West; or that there are fears of one; or that one is imminent. All of these statements are entirely false and inaccurate.

“We would therefore advise you not to repeat the false claims of a hosepipe ban, without speaking to us first. To re-publish false and inaccurate information now that you are aware of the true facts would constitute a malicious falsehood under the laws of defamation.”

Now, Lord knows some dubious libel cases have come to trial in England. But malicious falsehood Shaun? Really?