Sarah Thornton, the author who last week won £65,000 from the Telegraph over a book review by Lynn Barber, has spoken out in favour of no win, no fee libel rules.
She said the Conditional Fee Agreement system enabled her to take on the Telegraph over a review from November 2008 which the High Court ruled last week was “spiteful” and inaccurate.
Writing for the Guardian, Thornton said that the review “contributed to the irresistible inference that I was a charlatan who could not be trusted to tell the truth”.
She said that it took four months to persuade the Telegraph to take the review down from online and after ten months they offered a “partial apology”. Last week’s judgment came two and half years after the article appeared.
In a civilised democracy, anyone should be entitled to protect his or her reputation. However, in reporting on the judgment, many British journalists have foregrounded a statement from the Telegraph’s PR woman, which said that the ruling will have “adverse implications for freedom of expression”. When one journalist misrepresents the facts in order to attack another, the issue is not freedom of speech. It is malicious falsehood. I have no doubt that the Telegraph’s assertion is a smoke screen for its failure to do the right thing.