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Chris Cairns pushes Twitter libel case

Published: 6:16AM Wednesday November 17, 2010 Source: NZPA

Former cricketer Chris Cairns has won court approval to advance his Twitter libel case against one of the sport's most powerful figures.

The High Court in London has ruled that Cairns can pursue his Twitter libel case further because the courts should consider more factors than just how many UK Twitter users saw the post, said a report on the website.

Cairns has alleged a Twitter message posted by cricketing administrator Lalit Modi accused him of match fixing and was libellous.

The New Zealander, who completely rejected the allegations, earlier this year said Cricinfo had paid him unspecified damages after it quoted Modi's Twitter postings in January, which were also published by some Indian media outlets.

Because Modi's comments "completely destroyed me within the cricketing environment", Cairns engaged a team of London-based libel lawyers to pursue Modi through the courts.

At the time of the alleged defamation, Modi was chairman and commissioner of the Indian Premier League (IPL) and vice president of the Board of Cricketing Control for India (BCCI). He was suspended from these positions in April and left those roles in September.

Modi's lawyers argued that the damage from any libel case would be so small as to be not worth fighting a case over, and so any case would be an abuse of the court process.

His QC, Desmond Browne, told the court that if Cairns won his libel action both the damage and the vindication would be minimal: "The cost of the exercise will have been out of all proportion...The game will not merely not have been worth the candle, it will not have been worth the wick".

For Cairns, Andrew Caldecott, QC, said the Tweet was "sensational" and the re-publication of it was likely to have been substantial.

Mr Caldecott did not challenge Modi's argument that the Tweet was removed after 16 hours, but said there was a continuing real risk of wider publication.

Justice Tugendhat ruled that the number of people who saw the message was only one of a number of considerations in a defamation case.

A real threat in a case was that the statements at the centre of the libel claims might be more widely re-published.

A claimant could reasonably pursue a claim to prevent, or at least limit, further publications.

"I invite the parties to agree ... the further progress of the action," he said.