Legal Media

Church allowed to sue People over drunk proposal claims

By | Published on Friday 16 March 2012

Charlotte Church

Charlotte Church may no longer be pursuing her legal action against News International regards past phone hacking, but she is set to go to court in a libel dispute with the Mirror Group over an article that appeared in The People newspaper. Though, actually, this one will probably now be settled out of court too.

The Sunday tabloid claimed last November that the singer had proposed to her boyfriend while somewhat the worse for wear in a karaoke bar in Cardiff. So pissed was Church, in fact, according to the article, that she had to be “physically helped out of the pub”. The tab then quoted an eye witness as saying “we helped her to the taxi afterwards”. But the singer and her partner were, in fact, miles away from the Cardiff bar that night, with Church performing at a concert.

The Mirror Group conceded the story was made up nonsense, but asked that Church’s libel claim be dismissed on the basis that being pissed and/or proposing in public – or both – were not sufficiently embarrassing things to be accused of for there to be a case for defamation.

But Church’s lawyer did not agree. According to The Guardian, David Sherborne told the court: “The effect and impact on the claimant [of this story] is not trivial. She is a 26 year old mother of two children and a professional singer. This was not a positive story about Charlotte Church … the message that is clearly conveyed to the reader, and the meaning that he or she could take, [was] that in proposing to her boyfriend [Church] made … a very public and embarrassing spectacle of herself”.

Judge Michael Tugendhat agreed with Team Church that there was a sufficiently strong case here for the singer’s libel action to proceed to court. The judge said that The People’s report was “capable of bearing the meaning attributed to it [by the claimants] and that is capable of being defamatory”.