Jon Gaunt wins right to appeal 'Nazi' jibe ruling

A radio presenter who called a councillor a “Nazi” live on air has won the right to appeal a High Court decision which branded his interview offensive and abusive.

Jon Gaunt launched the appeal after an earlier judicial review failed to overturn a decision made by Ofcom that he had breached the broadcasting code.

The broadcast regulator upheld complaints against Gaunt after he called Redbridge councillor Michael Stark a “Nazi” and an “ignorant pig” during an interview on his TalkSport radio show in November, 2008.

During the interview Stark said there should be a ban on smokers being able to foster children but Gaunt, who was in care as a child, argued that the chance of finding a foster home would be lost under the new policy.

Despite apologising for his behaviour, Gaunt was sacked by TalkSport ten days after the broadcast.

Gaunt then sought a judicial review claiming the broadcast regulator unlawfully interfered with his freedom of expression.

However, Sir Anthony May and Justice Blair dismissed his judicial review proceedings at London’s High Court in July last year.

Sir Anthony said Ofcom was justified in its conclusion.

“The broadcast was undoubtedly highly offensive to Mr Stark and was well capable of offending the broadcast audience,” he said.

“The essential point is that the offensive and abusive nature of the broadcast was gratuitous, having no factual content or justification.”

Gaunt was refused permission to appeal although he was granted the right to renew his application directly to the Court of Appeal, from which today’s ruling stems.

Gavin Millar QC, representing Gaunt today at the Court of Appeal, said the High Court had misunderstood the context of the “ignorant pig” comment.

Millar said Gaunt had been fostered by a woman who smoked, and the interview became more heated when Stark said: “The point is that people do not live in the conditions that you were brought up in which obviously has had an effect on you.”

The lawyer said the High Court was wrong to find that “broadcasting shouted abuse which expresses no content” was not protected by Article 10.

Millar added: “A highly aggressive approach in a political interview is not a matter that justifies interference by the state with freedom of expression on the basis of harm and offence.”

Lord Justice Thomas, granting permission to appeal, said Gaunt should be entitled to argue whether the High Court had followed the correct principles.

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