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Last Updated: Monday, 10 March 2008, 18:07 GMT
Appeal overturns food review case
The Irish News building
The Irish News appealed the original ruling
The Court of Appeal has quashed a controversial libel case, seen as a watershed for press freedom.

Judges have ordered a retrial of the 2007 case against the Irish News.

A 25,000 libel award was initially made to Goodfella's pizza restaurant in Belfast, after a jury found the paper's food critic's review defamatory.

The court has now ruled that the jury in the original trial had been misdirected on whether the opinions were defensible as fair comment.

Journalist Caroline Workman's review criticised staff, the quality of food and drink, and the smokey atmosphere.

Nobody likes a bad review, but if I can't write honestly, good reviews are pointless
Caroline Workman
Ciarnan Convery, the owner of the business, brought the libel action in February, 2007, claiming that the article was defamatory, damaging and hurtful.

Lawyers for the paper had defended their criticism of the restaurant on the basis of justification and fair comment.

Delivering judgment, Lord Chief Justice Sir Brian Kerr said: "Although I consider it likely that a properly directed jury would conclude that a sufficient factual substratum existed for the comment... I cannot be certain that this is so and I would therefore order a retrial."

Speaking outside the court on Monday Ms Workman said: "Nobody likes a bad review, but if I can't write honestly, good reviews are pointless."

Irish News editor Noel Doran said the verdict sent out a strong message that newspapers have to be entitled to publish fair, reasonable and informed reviews.

The ruling could have far-reaching consequences for critics, not just in food, but in fields such as theatre, film and television.

The pianist Liberace and the actress Charlotte Cornwell famously won damages over unflattering reviews, but most such cases - involving subjective judgments - have been resolved in favour of the writer.

Defamation law specialist Jeremy Clarke-Williams said: "It's rare as hen's teeth for a libel action to be brought on the basis of a review, which is most likely to attract the defence of fair comment."



SEE ALSO
Appeal over 'poison pen' review
24 Jan 08 |  Northern Ireland
25K for food critic's poison pen
08 Feb 07 |  Northern Ireland



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