Author fails in bid to sue Independent for libel over coverage of failed libel claim

An author has failed in his bid to sue The Independent for defamation over a story in which it reported that he had lost a previous libel battle.

Christopher McGrath claimed the paper’s report had wrongly insinuated that he was suing over a review left on Amazon under his book, The Attempted Murder of God.

He claimed the message left underneath did not refer to the contents of the book and was therefore not a review and was libellous.

McGrath failed in an attempt to sue Amazon, the commenter, Richard Dawkins and the Richard Dawkins Foundation, which linked to the piece.

The Independent reported the failed libel bid, highlighting the fact that McGrath was left with a £100,000 bill.

The Independent reported on the case twice – once on 9 November 2011 and a second time on 4 April 2012. The second article, which the author took issue with, was headlined: “Author Chris McGrath faces six figure legal bill after unfavourable Amazon reviews case is struck out”. He also complained about a tweet by the journalist behind the story, Jerome Taylor.

Taylor reported that the judge had thrown out the majority of the case and said McGrath was left with legal bills of around £100,000.

McGrath said the article was particularly damaging to him because authors “are rightly regarded ordinarily as being in favour of free speech”.

He also accused the paper of having a “political motive” in defaming him, saying he was being used to “shore up” libel reform.

But The Independent defended the claim, saying the article had made clear that the libel case concerned an “online war of words” rather than an unfavourable review.

Mrs Justice Nicola Davies struck out Mr McGrath's claim, holding that the article was not defamatory of him, and also that he had placed too narrow – and inaccurate – an interpretation on it.

She also ordered him to make an interim payment for costs of £9,000 by 28 August.

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