UK: Newspaper libel defeat for Elton John
Sir Elton John was not libelled by the Times newspaper in a series of articles about tax avoidance, the High Court has ruled.
The pop star had complained about two articles, on “The secrets of tax avoiders”, published in June of this year, and was concerned about the potential impact on his charity work.
Sir Elton said they implied he had been advised to engage in “immoral” schemes.
However, the Press Association reports that on Wednesday Mr Justice Tugendhat ruled that the pieces were not capable of being interpreted in that way, or of containing any other defamatory meaning.
Sir Elton’s lawyers accepted that no involvement in tax avoidance was expressly stated but said the imputation was to be inferred from repeated references to Patrick McKenna, of Ingenious Media, as Sir Elton’s former accountant.
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In fact, Mr McKenna never worked for Sir Elton.
Times Newspapers Ltd published a correction the following day.
In his ruling, Mr Justice Tugendhat said it was understandable that Sir Elton should take exception to the inaccurate claim that Mr McKenna had formerly been his accountant, but that was not relevant to the question he had to decide upon.
Mr Justice Tugendhat rejected as “lacking any possible basis” the claim that the words could bear the meaning that Sir Elton had, or was suspected of being, engaged in tax avoidance.
According to the BBC, shortly after the verdict, Rupert Murdoch – whose company News Corp owns The Times – complained on Twitter:
“British libel laws limit freedom of expression everywhere,” he wrote. “Hope [David] Cameron keeps his promise of major reform, but not holding breath.”
On Tuesday, Lady Gaga donated $50,000 (£31,250) of prize money to Sir Elton John’s AIDS foundation after she was honoured with the LennonOno Grant for Peace in Iceland in recognition of her gay rights work.