Ware v French: Judgment

30 November 2022 

Today judgment was handed down in the Ware v French libel case. 

John Ware sued Press Gang editor Paddy French for £50,000 damages over his criticism of the 2019 Panorama programme “Is Labour Anti-Semitic?”

French withdrew from the case and did not take part in the trial which lasted an hour and 20 minutes on November 7.

Mr Justice Knowles awarded John Ware £90,000 in aggravated damages.

The judge also granted Ware a permanent injunction:

The Defendant must not, whether acting by himself or otherwise howsoever, publish or cause to be published any words to the following or similar effect: that the Claimant is a rogue journalist who had engaged in dirty tricks aimed at harming the Labour Party’s chances of winning the General Election by authoring and presenting an edition of Panorama in which he presented a biased and knowingly false presentation of the extent and nature of antisemitism within the party, deliberately ignoring contrary evidence.

Ware had told the court that French “had ‘thrown down the gauntlet’, which he would have been only too happy to have picked up, but, he said, the defendant had now ‘slithered away’ and behaved in a ‘cowardly’ fashion.” 

Mr Justice Knowles said he agreed with John Ware’s KC, William Bennett, that French’s “attitude to these proceedings … had been one of contempt”.

Paddy French said:

“This case raises serious questions about press freedom in Britain.”

“I believe I am the first journalist to be sued by a reporter working for the BBC for criticising a BBC programme that that reporter was involved in making.” 

“I am concerned that the Director General and the BBC board appear to have allowed the case to go ahead. “

“This raises the question of whether Ware v French is a SLAPP (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation) action by proxy in order to smother debate about this controversial programme.”

“If it is, then it sets a dangerous precedent — Britain’s state broadcaster is permitting its reporters to engage in litigation against the Corporation’s critics.”

“If the action was not a SLAPP, it was certainly a breach of the long-standing tradition in the UK that journalists do not sue other journalists.”

“Journalists have other public platforms besides the courts to argue their case — and John Ware can command space in national newspapers when he chooses.”

“I am naturally disappointed that the case has ended in the way it did.”

“I would like to thank my legal team and the large number of people who have supported me in contesting it.”

“The judgment does not end the continuing examination of the Panorama programme.”

“I’m pleased that John Ware and his team have acknowledged that I am free to continue investigating the Panorama broadcast.”

“The full report on this programme will be published next year.”

One Response to “Ware v French: Judgment”

  1. Ace Woking Says:

    Embarrassing.

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