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The Royal Courts of Justice
BBC Radio 4's Law in Action was broadcast on Friday, 29 July 2005 at 1600 BST.

In London there is always the chance of spotting a couple of celebrities. They might be shopping at Harrods, or just up from the country for a bit of liposuction before hitting Stringfellows for the evening.

But if you really want to be sure of bumping into an A-lister the Royal Courts of Justice could be a good bet. Over the years everyone from Elton John to Gary Lineker has passed beneath the most photographed portico in Britain. And, just last week, albeit via satellite link, film director Roman Polanski made his way here. The reason? Libel.

Libel law proceeds on the basis that everyone is entitled to protect their reputation from untrue and damaging allegations. Objectively judged, would right thinking people think less of you as a result of reading the allegation? In the Roman Polanski case, the publishers of Vanity Fair defended their allegation that he had made a pass at a woman whilst on the way to the funeral of his murdered wife Sharon Tate.

Such was the film director's colourful sexual past, they argued in effect, that he had no reputation to protect.

In this age where we seemingly know everything about the lives of the rich and famous, warts and all, is libel compensation directly linked to just how virtuous your public image is? Libel specialist, barrister Matthew Nicklin, explains.

Law in Action


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