- Alert: High Court rules on meaning of extract from political biography (Brown v Bower)
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TMT analysis: The High Court has ruled on the meaning of an extract from the political biography ‘Broken Vows–Tony Blair, the Tragedy of Power’, as a preliminary issue in defamation proceedings. The extract in question stated ‘In the ensuing discussion about gays in politics, journalist Matthew Parris declared on BBC TV that Mandelson was gay. Days later, Nick Brown, the new minister of agriculture, was accused by the News of the World of paying £100 to rent boys in order to be kicked around a room, and admitted his sexuality.’ The court held that the meaning of the extract was that, at the date the allegation was made by the News of the World, there were grounds to suspect that the claimant, Mr Brown, had paid young male prostitutes to subject him to consensual rough sex. In reaching its conclusion, the court took into account a number of factors, including the consequence of the rule on repetition. The court was not asked to rule on whether the meaning of the statement was defamatory because the parties had reached agreement on this point. The judge commented that the agreement between the parties left the court in an unsatisfactory position because it might have (unwittingly) concealed elements which were still in dispute and highly material to any assessment of serious harm and/or damages. However, he decided not to make a ruling on this point, which could be revisited later in the proceedings if appropriate.
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