Court overturns Goodfellas restaurant libel ruling

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  • Wednesday 12 March 2008

Judges have overturned a ruling which awarded damages to a restaurant after a 'damaging' newspaper review.

The Goodfellas pizzeria in Belfast was awarded £25,000 by a jury after Irish News restaurant critic Caroline Workman described one dish as ‘so sweet as to be inedible’, and criticised the attitude of staff.

Calling the review 'a hatchet job', Goodfellas owner Ciaran Convery sued. The jury agreed Workman's words were 'defamatory, damaging and hurtful' and found against the paper.

But on Monday, the Northern Ireland court of appeal overturned the decision that Workman’s August 2000 review was defamatory, with Lord Chief Justice Sir Brian Kerr ordering a retrial.

Restaurant critics across the UK, and the National Union of Journalists, condemned the jury’s ruling in February last year, claiming that the issue of free speech had been ignored.

Irish News editor Noel Doran, who welcomed the court’s decision, said: ‘We came here to prove a principle and we have been completely vindicated. This issue covers not just restaurant reviews – it covers theatres, books and films.’

Workman told reporters outside the court: ‘Nobody likes a bad review, but if I can’t write honestly, good reviews are pointless.’

Ciaran Convery, who runs Goodfellas, claimed that the decision ‘makes a farce of the judicial system’.

Sir Brian said, ‘Only if the jury has a clear understanding of what is capable of constituting comment, can it address the thorny issue of whether the facts on which comment is based are capable of justifying the comment made.’

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