Avoiding libel

I’ve been sent papers from a big publishing house today asking me to advise whether a particular passage in a novel is defamatory. The concern is that the description of a particularly unlikeable character fits almost exactly with that of a very well-known public figure.

Being a little out of my depth with such a question, I went to seek help from OldSmoothie.

‘The answer BabyB, is of course to tell him simply to change the likeness.’

‘But I don’t think he wants to do that,’ I replied.

‘Hmm, then you might have to use an old trick of the trade. No guarantees or anything but it should at least reduce the risks significantly.’

‘How does it work?’ I asked.

‘Think about it. If there’s going to be a case then the description in the book has to be such that it leads the reader to think it’s your man in real life. With me so far?’

‘Er, yes…’

‘So just tell your author to question the size of the character’s manhood.’

‘Oh.’

‘I mean, who’s going to sue claiming that the man with the small one is in fact them?’

BabyBarista is a fictional account of a junior barrister practising at the English Bar, written by barrister and writer Tim Kevan. For more information and to read posts from the last few years visit babybarista.com. Cartoons by Alex Williams, author of 101 Ways to Leave the Law.

August 6, 2013 · Tim Kevan · Comments Closed
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