Madison Legal lawyers succeed in challenge to jury trials
Daniel Feetham QC, Rowan Pennington-Benton and Darren Martinez have succeeded in an appeal before Gibraltar’s Court of Appeal concerning the application of English defamation legislation, with the final court of appeal being in London.
Daniel’s successful submissions form part of a strong Gibraltar practice for Madison Legal’s team. It remains to be seen as to whether the judgment issued in Gibraltar will inspire similar actions in the UK, such as the Fox case. It is true, however, that this case is a strong precedent in Gibraltar’s legal development and a strong result for the Madison Legal team.
As part of the team’s ongoing international and Privy Council work, they represented Panorama (a newspaper /editorial output) and one of its reporters in Allen and Wood v Panorama and Olivero, Neutral Citation Number 2022/GCA/04.
Allen and Wood brought defamation proceedings and the Defendants sought to exercise their right to a jury trial, but this was resisted. In certain circumstances, Gibraltar applies English practice and procedure. It was argued that the Defamation Act 2013, pursuant to which the right to trial by jury in was all but abolished in England and Wales, applied to Gibraltar as part of its “practice and procedure”.
The Court of Appeal accepted the submissions of Daniel Feetham QC and his team, that “practice and procedure” did not include the longstanding substantive (or alternatively historic and important procedural) right to trial by jury in defamation matters.
This topic has risen to media prominence in the United Kingdom, with actor Laurence Fox seeking the first jury trial in a libel case for a decade over a social media spat between him and three public figures he called ‘paedophiles’ on Twitter. The Johnny Depp v. Amber Heard decision in the US has also shown how a jury may take a radically different view to a single judge. Mr Depp had of course lost his defamation case in England when he sued News Group Newspapers after the Sun published an article labelling him a “wife beater”: Depp v News Group Newspapers Ltd  EWHC 2911 https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/QB/2020/2911.html.
It remains to be seen whether these developments will rekindle the debate on jury trials in libel cases in the UK.
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