Twitter Libel

Cairns v Modi [2012] EWHC 756 (QB) (26 March 2012)

This case is the first Twitter libel trial to come before the Courts. It involved the New Zealand Cricketer, Chris Cairns and the Defendant who was the Chairman of the Indian Premier League. In 2010 the Defendant commented on Twitter as to the withdrawal of Cairns name from the list of players who were put forward for the IPL auction he said it was due to his “past record in match fixing”.

In addition, he stated:

  • “We have removed him from the list for alleged allegations as we have zero tolerance of this kind of stuff”.

The Claimant commenced his claim in London.  In the Judgment the Judge found that the tweets meant that the Claimant had fixed cricket matches.

The Judge rejected much of the evidence given in support of the Defendant’s case.  The Judge considered that the allegations made against the cricketer were as serious as they could get.

It was thought that about 65 people had read the Twitter entries, a further 1,000 had read the article in Cricinfo.

The judge quoted Lord Atkin in  Ley v Hamilton in 1935 long before the internet as cited by Lord Reid in Broome v Cassell [1972] AC 1027 at 1092G

  • “It is precisely because the ‘real’ damage cannot be ascertained and established that the damages are at large. It is impossible to track the scandal, to know what quarters the poison may reach…”

The judge commented that

  • “This remains true in the 21st century, except that nowadays the poison tends to spread far more rapidly.”

Whilst the readership was small, the Court thought it did not mean that the damages would be trivial.

The Court thought the starting point for damages was to be £75,000.

Having regard to the “sustained and aggressive assertion of the plea of justification at the trial” the Judge increased the damages recoverable by a factor of 20% which meant that he awarded the Claimant £90,000.




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