'The deck is stacked against the defendant'

The London editor of Vanity Fair has criticised British libel law,
saying “the deck is stacked against the defendant”, following
Polanski’s victory over the magazine.

Henry Porter described the
outcome of the case as “one of the nuttier results to emerge from the
Royal Courts of Justice” in an article in The Observer last weekend.

Porter
added: “It was a bizarre conclusion to a bizarre case… Although the
case concerned events that occurred exclusively in America and were
later recalled in an article published by Vanity Fair, the majority of
whose circulation is in the US, the libel case was heard in Britain,
where the burden of proof rests with the defendant and libel law
favours a plaintiff such as Polanski.”

He said that during the
case, the court was not allowed to hear details of a charge of child
molestation laid against Polanski in the US, nor to discuss his sexual
past.

“It was surprising and irking to the defence that the court
was not permitted to hear about the darker side of his life story,” he
added.

“As in every libel hearing I have attended, I was struck
by how the deck is stacked against the defendant. There must surely be
a way of ensuring that the two sides start at the same place in trying
to gauge the truth of a claim.”

Graydon
Carter, editor of Vanity Fair, was reported in the Telegraph on
Saturday as saying after the case: “I find it amazing that a man who
lives in France can sue a magazine that is published in America in a
British courtroom.”

The jury took four and a half hours to find that Polanski had been
libelled by the magazine. The case is believed to have cost Condé Nast
up to £1.5million.

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