Author lodges libel action against The Independent over its report of...a libel action

An author is suing The Independent after it reported he had failed in an attempt to sue for defamation over comments left on retail website Amazon.

Christopher McGrath believes the paper was wrong and “malicious” to insinuate the “outrageous lie” that he was suing over a book review.

McGrath said the “contents of the book were not part of any of the words complained of” in the Amazon comment under his book, The Attempted Murder of God.

McGrath had attempted to sue the person who left the comment as well as Amazon, the renowned scientist and atheist Richard Dawkins and his foundation – after the latter two linked to the review.

The Independent reported on the case twice – once on 9 November 2011 and a second time on 4 April 2012. The second article, headlined “Author Chris McGrath faces six figure legal bill after unfavourable Amazon reviews case is struck out”, is being sued over.

McGrath was also critical of a tweet by journalist Jerome Taylor, which linked to his article.

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 it was being used to “shore up” libel reform.

A claim form said: “By insinuating falsely that [McGrath] had an illiberal claim in suing for a book review, a matter of free speech, [The Independent] clearly intended to whip up additional public support for Libel Reform. [McGrath’s] case was, as a result of The Independent’s manipulation of the facts, wrongly cited as yet another example of the poor state of the country’s libel laws that allowed such illiberal claims to go forward.”

He also said the fact the story was picked up by The Daily Telegraph and US press resulted in “financial and personal stress, humiliation, and damaged relations with family and friends”.

The Independent said it was fighting the claims, for damages, exemplary damages and costs, made against it by McGrath.

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