1311 Events embroiled in landmark libel law case

A row between Cambridge-based agency 1311 Events and Mowtown act The Gillettes is set to test the UK's defamation defence of 'fair comment'.

The Gillettes, captured from their Facebook page
The Gillettes, captured from their Facebook page

The case, which could challenge the defence that an opinion is not libellous if it is based in fact, revolves around a booking made by Bibis restaurant in Leeds.

The venue booked The Gillettes - a group which works in the corporate event market - through 1311 Events on New Year's Eve 2006, before going on to rebook the band without going through the agency again on the grounds that it was "ignorant, rude and aloof".

1311 owner Jason Spiller said Bibis broke a "re-engagement clause" that meant future bookings had to go through the agency. He put up a notice on his company's website saying it was no longer dealing with the band because they told him "contracts hold no water in legal terms".

The Gillettes then hit back, claiming the statement referred to an email sent to the agency in which band member Craig Joseph had referred to "1311's contract", not contracts in general. Hence the band's attempts to prove they have been libelled.

Joseph claims 1311's statement implies that the band routinely ignore contracts, lowering their reputation and costing them bookings.

Lawyers for 1311 planned a defence based on the justification that the comments were essentially true and fair comment. However, in May last year, The Gillettes successfully appealed to the high court to overturn these rulings.

A legal bat and ball match then saw 1311 have this judgement overturned, before The Gillettes legal team successfully managed to have the fair comment defence removed.

David Price, acting for Spiller and 1311, claims the supreme court case questions whether freedom of expression has become overly diluted by complexity, preventing proper comment.

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