Arbitration settles royal hairdresser libel dispute

Royal hairdresser Richard Ward has withdrawn a threat to sue the Daily Telegraph after the matter was settled via a new arbitration process.

Ward complained about a feature headlined "Is it scissors at dawn for the royal crimpers?" which appeared in the Telegraph on 4 July this year.

In it writer Bryony Gordon reported on an interview with James Pryce, "the man who styled the wedding-day hair of the Duchess of Cambridge".

Pryce had worked at Ward's salon, but some months after the Royal wedding moved to work at another establishment. Ward claimed that the article's portrayal of him was defamatory.

Ward, who was represented by solicitor Alastair Brett, agreed to binding arbitration, using the same system as that run by the not-for-profit company Early Resolution, which aims to reach quick and relatively inexpensive settlements for defamation claims, avoiding the huge costs which come with taking a case to trial.

The arbitration was dealt with by a three-member panel headed by libel law specialist Desmond Browne QC, who sat with two lay assessors, which decided today that the article in question did not bear the defamatory meaning claimed by Ward.

 

The Daily Telegraph's lawyer, David Price QC, said: "The advantage of this was that having an arbitrator and two assessors gave the process more of a jury feel – so that the decision would reflect the view a jury was likely to take.

"It was also helpful for Mr Ward, as the agreement was that the defendant would pay the cost of the arbitration, and could not recoup from the claimant if it won, while the claimant can recover the costs from the defendant if he won."

The result, he said, was that the case was determined quickly and at hugely less expense than would otherwise have happened.

It is understood that Ward paid the cost of the two lay assessors.

The process also meant that both sides faced much lower costs than they would have done had the case proceeded in the usual manner, with a court hearing being necessary to decide the issue of the meaning of the article, and costs for reach side probably running into six figures.

The arbitration process itself is understood to have cost in the region of £4,000.

Brett set up Early Resolution, which is chaired by former High Court judge Sir Charles Gray, after leaving Times Newspapers Ltd, where he was legal manager, and where he had campaigned in favour of finding newer and less expensive ways of settling libel claims.

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