Northern Ireland: jury awards £25K for bad restaurant review

by Walter Olson on February 10, 2007

“The Irish News must pay £25,000 plus court costs to a west Belfast Italian restaurant owner after a jury found a food critic’s review to be defamatory.” (“£25K for food critic’s poison pen”, BBC, Feb. 8). Journalist Caroline Workman, in a review of Ciaran Convery’s restaurant Goodfellas, had “described his staff as unhelpful, his cola as flat, and his chicken marsala ‘so sweet as to be inedible'”. Guardian restaurant critic Matthew Norman described the jury verdict as “very worrying news”: “You really cannot overstate the imbecility of a libel jury: what we really need now is a sustained campaign against our ludicrous libel laws.” (Maev Kennedy, “Critics bite back after restaurant reviewer sued for calling chicken too sweet”, Guardian, Feb. 10).

{ 5 comments }

1 Supremacy Claus 02.10.07 at 2:40 pm

Truth is a defense. Shouldn’t the jurors or the judge have been forced to anonymously eat at this dump, to order a cola/chicken marsala combo platter, perhaps to ask the staff to take back an item, to see the result?

2 Phaedrus 02.10.07 at 7:37 pm

“You really cannot overstate the imbecility of a libel jury”? Does this mean that the jury can sue him for libel now?

Oh, and Supremacy Claus: “Truth is an absolute defense to libel” is far from a universal legal principle. In many countries (especially countries with legal systems based on the UK’s), you can be convicted of libel essentially for telling the truth in a hurtful way.

3 J.T. Wenting 02.11.07 at 2:22 am

I must say I’ve got mixed feelings about this.
I’m both thrilled that a journalist has finally been slapped by the courts for his behaviour, but I’m also deeply worried about the possible implications to free speech that this brings (if anyone can be succefully sued for saying something that anyone else doesn’t like, where does it end?).

4 Amsterdamsky 02.11.07 at 3:36 am

The reality of free speech in europe is that you are only allowed to say things that don’t offend anybody. Thank “G-d” for Theo van Gogh getting the Netherlands beyond that although some 14 year old kids were recently arrested and jailed for giving the Nazi (Roman in reality) salute. Still things are better now.

5 Lizard 02.12.07 at 11:52 am

Wow – before the suit, nobody knew that “Goodfellas” was a dump. Now the whole world knows. Nice going; now do they need a “you’re too stupid warning” label on the gun as they shoot into their foot?

-Gary

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