Legal Media

Court rejects Elton John’s libel claim over Times tax avoidance report

By | Published on Thursday 11 October 2012

Elton John

The High Court in London has rejected a libel claim by Elton John against The Times, after he was mentioned in one of the broadsheet’s tax avoidance exposés earlier this year.

The singer’s financial affairs were referenced in a June report into the legal but arguably unethical schemes employed by some of the rich and famous to avoid paying taxes. The article claimed, incorrectly, that John had engaged the services of Ingenious Media chief Patrick McKenna to work as his accountant in regards to a tax avoidance scheme. The next day the paper admitted McKenna had never actually been John’s accountant, and the following month it ran a second clarification stating that Ingenious had never offered to move money offshore for the singer.

Nevertheless, John sued The Times for defamation, claiming that the articles were “severely damaging” to his reputation and charity work. However, Judge Michael Tugendhat disagrees, ruling that, contrary to John’s claims, he does not believe that the average Times reader would have inferred that the singer was, or was reasonably believed to be, involved in tax avoidance from the broadsheet’s report. After all, the judge noted, readers of that particular paper are “highly educated and better informed members of the public” (what’s the betting Mike reads The Times?).

Therefore, according to The Guardian, the judge concluded that, despite the factual errors in the Times piece, “the words complained of are not capable of bearing the meaning attributed to them by the claimant or any other defamatory meaning”.

It remains to be seen if John decides to appeal, perhaps by wheeling some Times-reading idiots into the court room. Now that would be fun.