Saturday, 28 May 2011

High Court dismissed Big Brother 'transsexual' libel

Barrister Adrian Davies (of 3 Dr Johnson's Buildings, Lincoln's Inn) represented a Big Brother contestant in one of the most bizarre cases to come before the London courts in recent years, held before Mr Justice Eady in 2007.

Lisa Jeynes, a former model and shop manageress from South Wales, had brought a claim for libel damages of up to £150,000 against the News of the World, over an article the newspaper had published in 2003 under the headline "BB's Lisa 'the geezer'. My fake boobs fell out on date with James Hewitt!"

During and after her participation in that year's Big Brother series, Ms Jeynes had been plagued by rumours that she was a transsexual. Tabloid frenzy had been further stimulated by her brief romantic involvement with James Hewitt, former lover of the late Princess of Wales. Her claim was that the News of the World headline would be construed by reasonable readers to add credibility to the untrue and defamatory transsexual innuendo.

However Mr Justice Eady disagreed, and rejected her case. In his judgment an inference that Ms Jeynes was transsexual "would be to read far too much into those words" and no reasonable reader of the News of the World would do so.

Ms Jeynes' counsel Adrian Davies successfully argued that no time limit for costs should be enforced against her, since she was unable to work after being struck by an electric cable while on a modelling assignment, resulting in a "serious accident of a very unpleasant and disfiguring nature. ... She is currently unemployed and unlikely to find further work modelling so her circumstances are somewhat distressing and any order for costs may be somewhat academic at this stage."

The case was extensively reported, including this BBC report.