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Boris to sue for slander (and libel)?

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The new Foreign Secretary might just have the law on his side

Lead

Spare a thought for Boris Johnson. Love him or loathe him (and there seems to be nothing in between), surely a man who has just been appointed Foreign Secretary deserves at least a modicum of respect?

Instead, not only did wannabe Labour Party leader Angela Eagle turn her back in bewilderment when she heard of Boris’s elevation to one of great offices of state, but US State Department spokesperson Mark Toner (video below) laughed outright. Toner’s attempt to coerce his features back into seriousness wouldn’t look out of place in a comedy by the king of gurning himself, Jim Carrey.

But hold on. In the face of such treatment, could Boris take legal action? It has long been settled law that physical gestures are actionable as slander — see the well-known cases of Gutsole v Mathers, Gregory v Duke of Brunswick and Vallance and, more recently, Mason v William Hill Organisation Ltd.

Eagle turning her back, Toner all but bursting into laughter — gestures, both, and highly defamatory of the new Foreign Secretary, suggesting that he is but a buffoon, ill-suited to such a prestigious and important role.

And, by way of a technical point, Boris could, in theory, sue not just Eagle and Toner but the media carrying the videos of these scurrilous gestures. Here he would be bringing an action for libel, given that publication has occurred in permanent form.

Will it happen? Is Boris even now consulting m’learned friends? The idea may not be as fanciful as it seems. After all, look at what’s happened in British politics in the past few weeks.

28 Comments

Anonymous

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What is this utter tripe? This isn’t even a non-story it’s a non-story about an imaginary story.

(31)(1)

Anonymous

People who post tough-sounding, aggressive and confrontational comments below the line, anonymously… they rock! (Says Anon.)

(0)(7)

Anonymous

Come at me bra

(2)(0)

Castro

Cum at me too.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

Gregory v Duke of Brunswick has nothing to do with slander. Gutsole v Mathers doesn’t involve physical gestures. Mason v William Hill Organisation Ltd doesn’t appear to exist.

It’s not looking too good for Boris’ case.

(12)(0)

Anonymous

This article is utter jibberish. Delete this nonsense.

(16)(0)

Tim

I thought insults were not libel?

So as long as I say that I think Boris is a buffoon who is as thick as two Californian redwoods and as useful as a toothpick on a roller coaster – then I ought to be on the right side of the law.

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Anonymous

Vulgar abuse. Not to you I mean, but the proper term for your point about insults.

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Anonymous

I would’ve backed labour in an election but not with that idiot Angela in charge. Her eye rolling reminds me of the bully in school who always looked daft compared to the poor victims.
As for America!!!! Anyone get murdered today? Die because they didn’t have food,hospital treatment. I’m afraid even my American relatives are despairing of their leaders…and they have two of gods finest to vote for. Good luck.

(1)(3)

Fucknugget

Lol, you off your meds again hun? This ain’t the Daily Mail comments section you know, better get back where you belong.

(4)(1)

Just Anonymous

This has to be the most desperate non-story I have ever seen Legal Cheek publish. And that’s saying something!

(14)(0)

Anonymous

Wow.

‘surely a man who has just been appointed Foreign Secretary deserves at least a modicum of respect?’

Absolutely not as a matter of law.

(3)(1)

Anonymous

Or as a matter of common sense, in this case.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

Also his could have been laughing in amusement, not in derision… Boris would have to prove Mr. Toner’s gesture was slander… i too see this as a non-story.

I am not familiar with the other person, but the fact she turned her back on him means what? That she has disdain for Johnson… and that can be now construed as slander? What did she say about him (or could be applied to her gesture) that was untrue?

(2)(0)

Anonymous

Tripe.

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Anonymous

Honest opinion?

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Anonymous

And this was written by a media lawyer? *Giggle and roll eyes*

(4)(0)

Lance

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

3pm is a bit early to be drinking on a Thursday

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Enthusiastic & Inspired Poly

Wowww! Laughter and back-turning can amount to false statements of fact!
Thanks Alex :))))))))) xoxox

(3)(0)

Proctor & Gamble

Back in Pampers for you!

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Coming up next week:

Has John Major ever had a whiplash injury?

Will Bryan Adams ever go to court over a boundary dispute?

Could Jeremy Clarkson conduct an infant approval?

(3)(0)

Ciaran Goggins

So he doesn’t sue when his wife is accused of ogling the fogles with Graeme Stening, but he does when a Yank gets a fit of the giggles?

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Aroused bystander

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

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Ciaran Goggins

I defer to learned counsel in this matter.

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Anonymous

Yawn

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Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

If you were going to do this properly, you’d need to at least address the points about whether a Secretary of State can sue for defamation and, if so, whether he can collect compensatory damages.

(0)(0)

Comments are closed.