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Courting celebrity?

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These days the combination of a court appearance and a celebrity are not uncommon – whether they’re the defendant or the victim. Living life in - for some – an unwelcome spotlight can be a trial.

BalancesA new documentary series* began this week that focuses on a number of high profile cases featuring well known personalities as they pursue libel actions.

Libel (written) and slander (spoken), are covered by the law of defamation which is designed to protect reputations. Claims can be brought against third parties who publish (whether in writing or orally) untrue words or matters that serve to harm another’s reputation. Whilst, historically, such claims have been thought of as the preserve of the rich and famous, in recent times the number of cases has been on the increase.

Michael Peacock who leads the Litigation & Dispute Resolution team for Yorkshire Law firm Keeble Hawson LLP, examines the trend:

“The increase in cases is, I suspect, largely due to the development of the internet and social networking. Indeed this month saw what is understood to be the first defamation case in Britain involving a comment on Twitter. However the credit crunch has possibly also played a part in causing companies and individuals to treat attacks on their reputation more seriously.”

“Whilst it is true that the costs of pursuing these types of claim can indeed be significant, many settle very quickly once a formal letter of claim is delivered. In addition, many cases are currently run on a conditional fee (no win no fee) basis, though whether this will remain the case in the long term is currently the subject of much debate.”

*See You In Court from 29th March on BBC 1

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