The Tweet taste of victory!

16 Jul 2012

Collyer Bristow successfully represented cricketer Chris Cairns in his recent high profile defamation action against Lalit Modi in England's first Twitter libel trial. In January 2010 Lalit Modi, formerly the commissioner of the Indian Premier League, gave an interview to an online cricket magazine and published on his Twitter account an allegation that the New Zealand cricketer, Chris Cairns, had been removed from the list of players eligible for a Twenty/20 tournament because of his past record in match-fixing.

There was no truth in that allegation but Mr Modi refused to withdraw it or apologise; instead he said he would justify it in court. In March 2012, the case of Cairns v Modi came before Mr Justice Bean who, following an eight day trial in the Royal Courts of Justice, awarded Chris Cairns a substantial sum in damages and stated in his judgment that: "Mr Modi has singularly failed to provide any reliable evidence that Mr Cairns was involved in match fixing or spot fixing...even if I were applying a simple balance of probabilities test, the plea of justification would fail in both respects".

Chris Cairns was awarded £75,000 in damages, which was increased by a factor of 20% to £90,000 because of Mr Modi's Counsel's aggressive but ultimately ineffectual cross-examination of Mr Cairns.

This was the first case where a Twitter libel came to trial in England but it will not be the last. The rapid emergence of social media has dramatically changed the way people communicate with each other and how information (accurate or not) is disseminated within seconds to a global audience; a point recognised by the trial Judge who said: "nowadays the poison tends to spread far more rapidly".

The legal principles, however, remain the same: you cannot publish allegations about someone, causing enormous distress and reputational damage, without being able to justify them. Mr Modi singularly failed to do so. That is because there was no evidence. If Mr Modi had recognised that at the beginning, held his hands up and apologised he would have spared himself a great deal of bother… and an awful lot of money.

Rhory Robertson, Partner and Alex Cochrane, Associate of Collyer Bristow advised, Andrew Caldecott QC and Ian Helme of One Brick Court were instructed.

Additional information