Actress wins right to see Mail reporter's notebook

Rigg: libel action against Mail

The High Court has ordered the Daily Mail to hand over a reporter’s notebook for actress Diana Rigg to inspect – before she decides whether to accept an offer of amends to settle her libel action against the newspaper.

Mr Justice Gray ordered Associated Newspapers to hand over Jane Kelly’s notebook in which she made notes while interviewing Rigg last September.

Rigg sued over the resulting article in the 19 September Daily Mail, headlined: “Diana Rigg attacks British men – and announces her retirement: my husband’s affair with Joely Richardson left me mourning for years. Now I’m finished with marriage and men.” The judge said that Rigg alleges the article was “defamatory of her in suggesting that she had chosen to reveal herself in public as a lonely, embittered, rejected and vengeful woman” and that the article deliberately gave the false impression that it was based on an interview she had given about her private life.

He said that Rigg claimed that the article included a number of deliberate falsehoods, including quotations falsely attributed to her.

Mr Justice Gray said Associated had made an offer of amends, but that Rigg’s counsel, Desmond Browne QC, now candidly admitted that, prior to deciding whether to accept it, Rigg wanted to inspect Kelly’s notebook. She accordingly sought a court order forcing the publishers to hand it over.

The judge said that Associated had argued that such disclosure would be “premature and inappropriate” as it would give Rigg the advantage of early disclosure if the offer of amends is not accepted and the case proceeds to trial.

However, rejecting that argument, and ordering disclosure, the judge said: “It has to be borne in mind that the claimant was present at the interview.

“This is not therefore a case of a claimant seeking disclosure on the off chance that something may turn up.

“Mr Browne is candid about the reason why his client wants disclosure now: the claimant wants to make an informed decision whether or not to accept the offer of amends.

“The decision is of importance to the claimant because by accepting the offer of amends, she would be forfeiting what would otherwise be her right to a trial with a jury.

“I accept the submission that the claimant has every reason to want to know now whether Ms Kelly’s notes support or undermine her case.” But the judge said: “The decision in the present case should not be treated as approving on a routine or wide-scale basis applications for disclosure by claimants faced with a decision whether or not to accept offers of amends.”

By Jess Harrold

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