Controversial comedian Frankie Boyle wins £54,000 libel damages from Daily Mirror after newspaper calls him 'racist'
Adam Sherwin is Media Correspondent at The Independent and an award-winning writer who specialises in covering the entertainment, broadcasting, music and popular culture industries. Previously Media writer and diarist at The Times, he was a co-founder of the Beehive City media and entertainment website. As regular contributor to BBC London 94.9 Radio station, he was named Music Business writer of the year at the awards of influential music industry site Record of the Day in 2006.
Monday 22 October 2012
Frankie Boyle, the controversial comedian, has won more than £54,000 damages after a High Court jury concluded that he had been libelled by the Daily Mirror, when the newspaper called him “racist”.
Boyle, 40, from Glasgow, claimed that the Daily Mirror defamed him when it described him as a “racist comedian” and said he had been “forced to quit” the BBC panel show Mock The Week.
The Daily Mirror publisher Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) defended the article, which was published last year. MGN said the “racist” description was either true or “honest comment on a matter of public interest.”
MGN had said that Boyle exploited negative stereotypes of black people for “cheap laughs”. Boyle denied “punctuating” material with racist references or making “gratuitous” use of black people.
Boyle’s barrister David Sherborne had retold one of his client’s jokes about Britain’s involvement in foreign conflicts in which the comedian answered a phone and said, “Department of N***** Bombing. “Context is everything,” argued Mr Sherborne, who admitted that Boyle’s humour was extremist.
Boyle told the High Court that characters he played might express racist views, but he did not. The comedian said he actively campaigned against racism and parodied racists. He claimed that the Daily Mirror had “misunderstood” the context of his use of language in jokes.
The jury heard a gag which Boyle cracked about the Olympic swimmer Rebecca Adlington on Mock The Week in 2008. The publisher argued that the words “forced to quit” did not mean that Mr Boyle had been sacked from the show, which he left the following year, and were not defamatory.
But jurors ruled in favour of Boyle after a week-long trial in London. They awarded him a total of £54,650 damages.
Writing on Twitter, Boyle said: “I’m very happy with the jury’s decision and their unanimous rejection of the Mirror's allegation that I am a racist.
“Racism is still a very serious problem in society which is why I've made a point of always being anti-racist in my life and work and that's why I brought this action. I am giving my damages to charity.”
Boyle’s television future remains unclear. Channel 4 said it had no further plans to work with him after he made a series of tasteless Twitter comments about the opening of the Paralympics. Boyle continues to write a column for The Sun, the Mirror’s great rival, despite the outrage that his humour provokes.
A barrister representing MGN had told the jury that Boyle was “callous” and “insensitive” for joking about Jade Goody and Madeleine McCann.
Ronald Thwaites QC said jurors should not find in the comedian’s favour. He said if jurors thought that Boyle had been libelled they should show their “contempt” by awarding damages of 45p - the price of a copy of the Daily Mirror.
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