A night on the toon has its place

 

Neil Lennon, the Celtic footballer, had been enjoying a knees-up at the squad’s Christmas party in Newcastle when trouble broke out. A photographer from the Daily Record was subsequently chased and dispossessed of £12,000 worth of camera equipment by a number of Lennon’s team-mates. Lennon brought libel proceedings in England, claiming that the story had been reported in such a way as to suggest that he was one of the men responsible for this robbery.

The Daily Record applied to stay the action on the basis that Scotland was the more appropriate forum.

The Daily Record ‘s application was primarily based on the fact that the story had been published in a number of newspapers in Scotland, yet Lennon had chosen to sue only on the Daily Record’s publication in England, where readership was substantially lower. In addition, the Daily Record emphasised that Lennon currently lives and plays his football in Scotland.

These arguments were rejected by Mr Justice Tugendhat, who noted that Lennon had a real connection with England and a substantial reputation there. Moreover, he pointed out that “the fact that there may be 20 times as many readers in Scotland is not, of itself, a reason for not suing in England”.

The judge’s other major point was that, unlike almost all other types of litigation where the issue of forum non conveniens is considered, the realistic outcome, should the Daily Record get its way, would be that this action (specifically on English publications) would not be tried at all, but an entirely different action (on Scottish publications) would be pursued in Scotland under Scottish law.

Accordingly, Mr Justice Tugendhat ruled in Lennon’s favour. The relevant tort had occurred in England; there was therefore a general presumption that the natural forum for the trial was England. The claimant had an important reputation to defend in England and consistent with the recent judgment in the case of King v Lewis, the English courts were the natural forum for achieving vindication of that reputation.

Finally, the Daily Record had not suggested that there would be any significant difference in terms of costs and convenience between trying the action in England or Scotland.

Andy Sloan is a trainee solicitor at Lovells

Andy Sloan

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