Chris McGrath v. Vaughan Jones: An Unpleasant Peek Into U.K. Libel Law
I'll be the first to admit: sometimes we are more than a little mean to the United Kingdom here at Popehat. But we kid because we love. The language, the history, the culture, the television, the fond memories of student life spent shivering on cobbled streets after the bars closed ludicrously early, waiting for a kebab van so that we could eat some gray meat carved off of a questionable shapeless haunch — we love it all.
But we don't love the U.K.'s approach to libel, and we applaud the recent rumblings of reform there. Though the SPEECH Act helps to protect Americans from the worst excesses of the U.K.'s plaintiff-biased and libel-tourist-destination system, that's cold comfort to Brits who get sued.
Consider the case of Vaughan Jones, a young blogger sued for leaving negative reviews of a book. I learned of Mr. Jones when he made some kind comments in the course of discussing legal threats from bumptious fake lawyer Marc Stephens. From there, I found and read John's fascinating and chilling blog about being a libel defendant in the U.K.
U.K. law limits what Jones can say about his own case. But he has a good summary of links to media coverage, including this one. The case concerns reviews Mr. Jones left on Amazon — now deleted — regarding Chris McGrath's book The Attempted Murder of God: Hidden Science You Really Need To Know. McGrath has also sued Amazon itself over these negative reviews, and has sued Richard Dawkins and the Dawkins Foundation for their commentary. As you know, we have a low opinion of people who sue over negative book reviews. They are loathsome.
Apparently a decision is expected soon based upon the initial hearings. I look forward to reading it. Meanwhile, consider Jones' discussion of proposed reforms to U.K. libel law. Also consider his description of proceedings, some of which seem very odd to our tastes.
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