Sun goes down on Sir Elton's tax-avoidance libel claim against The Times

Sir Elton John today lost his libel case against The Times over a series of articles he alleged linked him with a controversial tax avoidance scheme.

Mr Justice Tugendhat rejected Sir Elton's bid to sue The Times saying that the words complained of were not capable of being defamatory.

The singer began his legal action against the paper’s publisher Times Newspapers in August when he claimed the articles caused severe damage to his reputation as a charity fundraiser.

On 21 June the paper described Patrick McKenna, who The Times claimed had hooked up celebrities with film investment schemes generating millions of pounds of tax relief, as Sir Elton’s former accountant.

His lawyers Carter Ruck said it created “the clear impression to readers that Sir Elton himself is suspected of having invested in one of Mr McKenna's tax avoidance scheme”.

After complaining to the editor the paper apologised over the inaccuracy in the following day’s paper.

In its defence The Times’ barrister Manuel Barca QC said the references to Sir Elton were “fleeting in the context of such a long series of articles in a single issue of the newspaper” and that the references made clear the association was in the past, such as “former accountant", "previously worked as an accountant".

It also noted that the articles featured pictures of several other celebrity figures, including Lord Lloyd Webber, “against whom no express imputation is made”.

When people were linked to the tax avoidance scheme “the allegation is clear, and the association with Mr McKenna is also explained”, Barca argued.

The paper claimed it would be “wholly unreasonable for a reader to draw an inference that the claimant [Sir Elton], or any of the other persons with whom Mr McKenna is said to have been associated, were in any way tainted by the imputation of involvement in tax avoidance, except where the articles expressly say so.

“The purpose of naming these other persons associates of Mr McKenna was unambiguously by way of background, to introduce Mr McKenna”.

Today at The High Court, Mr Justice Tugendhat ruled that “the words complained of are not capable of bearing the meanings attributed to them by the claimant or any other meaning defamatory of him.”

It is not yet known if Sir Elton will appeal today’s ruling.

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