MGN setback in Charlotte Church libel battle

Charlotte Church won an important ruling today in her libel action over an “entirely untrue” story that she had drunkenly proposed to her boyfriend at a pub karaoke night.

The 26-year-old singer has sued MGN Ltd over a November 2011 “exclusive” in The People.

The newspaper admitted that the story about Church and Jonathan Powell was false, but said that was completely irrelevant to the issue of whether the story was capable of defaming her in the way complained of.

Its counsel, Mark Warby QC, said: “In short, it’s an article about her getting a bit drunk that night, but that doesn’t make it defamatory.”

If MGN had won its argument before Mr Justice Tugendhat at the High Court in London, the case would have been dismissed, but the judge’s ruling in Church’s favour means the action is now likely to be resolved by MGN making an offer of amends.

Church’s counsel, David Sherborne, said that the story, headed “Marryoke – Charlotte proposes after pub karaoke session”, was not a positive story about Church “popping the question”.

The message clearly conveyed, which would make people think significantly less of her, was that she had made an embarrassingly drunken public spectacle of herself.

The effect of the story was not trivial, and has caused her considerable hurt, distress and embarrassment.

He said: “As we all know – the story is nonsense. It is entirely untrue.”

Not only did Church not propose to Powell at the Robin Hood pub in Cardiff in the early hours of October 29 last year, she was not even there as she was performing with Powell at a concert five miles away in Pentyrch.

The judge said: “My conclusion is that the words complained of are capable of bearing the meaning attributed to them in the particulars of claim and that they are capable of bearing a meaning defamatory of the claimant.”

He said he would give reasons for his decision at a later date.

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