Morrissey's NME libel case 'should be thrown out'

Singer Morrissey’s libel claim over an NME article about his attitude to immigration should be thrown out as it was “not a genuine bid for vindication”, a judge heard yesterday.

The former Smiths frontman is suing the NME and its former editor, Conor McNicholas, over a November 2007 interview and has claimed that they deliberately tried to characterise him as a racist.

Morrissey, 52, was not at London’s High Court to hear the magazine’s counsel, Catrin Evans, ask for the action to be “struck out” as an abuse of process.

She told Mr Justice Tugendhat that Morrissey’s explanations for “doing nothing” to progress the claim were “wholly unconvincing”.

“The court can infer from this that there has been such a delay that is not a genuine bid for vindication”.

The singer’s lawyers have said that continued lack of assistance from Morrissey’s former manager, Merck Mercuriadis, with whom he parted company in May 2008, was principally to blame, as he was a crucial witness and supplier of documents.

Evans said that if the case was to get to trial, which would not be before next summer at the earliest, the magazine was likely to be at risk of serious prejudice in defending it – nearly five years after publication.

Contesting the application, Morrissey’s counsel, David Sherborne, said that other defamation cases had taken time to get to trial and the onus to move an action along was not entirely on the former Smith’s frontman.

He questioned whether the delay would cause prejudice to the defence as the action was focused on contemporaneous documents and involved a “memorable” experience for all concerned.

He told the judge that the magazine was well aware of the extent of Morrissey’s case, and it could proceed swiftly to trial.

UPDATE 08.30 19/10/11

The judge asked to strike out singer Morrissey’s libel case against nusican magazine NME and its former editor, Conor McNicholas, yesterday reserved his decision.

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