Where now for Kate Moss?

“Where now
for Kate Moss?” The phrase summarises much recent media coverage. Ms
Moss has issued a personal apology for her behaviour, and although her
statement stopped short of mentioning the “c” word, her use of cocaine
is now beyond doubt. So media lawyers and journalists may also
legitimately wonder: “Where now for Kate Moss’ libel actions?”

Her
career as a libel claimant, though less prominent than her modelling
career, has been pretty successful. Against the Daily Mail, she
recovered damages, indemnity costs, an undertaking and an apology in
open court over a July 1999 story partly involving an allegation of
drug-taking. In July of this year, the Sunday Mirror also apologised to
her in open court and paid her “substantial damages” and costs over
allegations in its January 2005 story, including that she had taken
“vast quantities of cocaine”.

Most recently, on 13 September,
Moss issued libel proceedings against Five over its 27 January
programme, The Truth about Kate Moss. The claim form was served the day
before the Daily Mirror broke the “Cocaine Kate” story. No particulars
of the claim have been served at the time of writing (one wonders if
they ever will be now), but it seems clear that the claim is not
unconnected to the similar allegations in the linked January 2005
Sunday Mirror article.

The Five claim form includes the required statement of truth – signed personally by Ms Moss.

The earlier libel claims would have had a similar statement signed either by her or her solicitor.

The
statement of truth was introduced under the new civil procedure rules
(CPR) in April 1999. Prior to that, Jeffrey Archer’s case showed what
happened when a claimant was subsequently proved to have been less than
frank. He was charged with various counts of perverting the course of
justice and of perjuring himself on affidavit in his 1987 libel case
against the Daily Star, convicted in 2001 and sentenced to four years
in jail. In 2002 he settled with the Star and paid back the majority of
the costs and damages he had taken off them in 1987.

The position
under the CPR is that proceedings for contempt of court may be brought
against a person if he or she “makes, or causes to be made, a false
statement in a document verified by a statement of truth without an
honest belief in its truth. Proceedings under this rule may be brought
only by the Attorney General; or with the permission of the court”. It
would still be open to a defendant to seek recovery of any damages and
costs.

There is no evidence that the statements of truth in Kate
Moss’ various actions were false. Even though the Five claim was issued
the week after the Mirror apparently secured its footage of her taking
cocaine, there is nothing specifically about the drug in the claim form
itself. However, there is no way the claim will proceed in relation to
any cocaine-related allegation since the particulars of claim will also
have to be verified with a statement of truth.

It is perfectly
possible that Kate Moss’ 1999 Mail and 2005 Sunday Mirror actions were
quite properly verified at the time the claim forms and particulars of
claim were signed.

It would not be surprising, however, if the
Associated Newspapers and Mirror Group lawyers are looking very closely
indeed at events around that time, given that the actions cost them
heavily in terms of costs and damages.

Nick Armstrong is a partner in the media & entertainment team at Charles Russell LLP

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