Joey Barton calling Jeremy Vine ‘bike n***e’ had defamatory meaning, judge rules

TV and radio presenter labelled a ‘big bike n***e’ in a series of social media posts

Athena Stavrou
Friday 24 May 2024 21:11 BST
Jeremy Vine recreates Sunak's rain-soaked speech in studio

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Social media posts by Joey Barton calling Jeremy Vine a ‘nonce’ were defamatory, a High Court judge has ruled.

Mr Barton faced legal action from the TV and radio presenter over 14 online posts, including where he called Mr Vine a “big bike nonce” and a “pedo defender” on Twitter/X.

Mr Vine took the ex-footballer to court for libel and harassment, following a social media exchange over Mr Barton’s criticism of women’s involvement in men’s football.

Jeremy Vine arrives at the Royal Courts of Justice in London for the first hearing in the libel claim brought by himself against Joey Barton
Jeremy Vine arrives at the Royal Courts of Justice in London for the first hearing in the libel claim brought by himself against Joey Barton (PA)

At a preliminary hearing earlier this month, Mrs Justice Steyn was asked to decide several early issues in the case, including the “natural and ordinary” meanings of the posts and whether they were statements of fact or opinion.

On Friday, the judge ruled that 11 of the posts could defame Mr Vine.

Mr Barton faced legal action from the TV and radio presenter over 14 online posts
Mr Barton faced legal action from the TV and radio presenter over 14 online posts (PA )

She said: “The strong impression gained by the assertion the claimant is known as ‘aka’ ‘bike nonce’, followed immediately by the further assertion that he is known as, again, ‘aka’ ‘pedo defender’, is that the term ‘nonce’ was being used in its primary meaning to allege the claimant has a sexual interest in children.

“While I do not consider that the hypothetical reader, who would read the post quickly and move on, would infer a causative link, ie that the claimant defends paedophiles because he shares the same propensity, the juxtaposition of the words ‘nonce’ and ‘pedo’ is striking and would reinforce the impression that the former was used in the sense of ‘paedophile’.

“The reader would have understood that the word ‘bike’ was a meaningless aspect of the accusation, serving only as an indication that this was a label attached to the claimant, who was known as a cyclist, without detracting from the operative word ‘nonce’.”

In a hearing earlier this month, lawyers for Mr Vine told the court that the abuse began following Mr Barton’s comments on women involved in football, particularly in the media, from the end of 2023.

Following a social media post where Mr Barton compared female pundits Eni Aluko and Lucy Ward to serial killers Fred and Rose West, Mr Vine questioned the remarks and whether Mr Barton had a brain injury, the court heard.

Jeremy Vine is a keen cyclist and often campaigns for cyclist safety
Jeremy Vine is a keen cyclist and often campaigns for cyclist safety (PA)

This led to Mr Barton launching a “calculated and sustained attack on Mr Vine” on 6 January, including the repeating of allegations that Mr Vine supported administering Covid-19 vaccinations by force.

Mr Barton published several posts over the following days to his 2.8 million followers, including labelling Mr Vine a “bike nonce”, a “pedo defender” and “a nonce”, and associated him with paedophiles and sex offenders, including Jimmy Savile, Rolf Harris and Jeffrey Epstein.

Mr Barton then began using “#bikenonce” on Twitter/X, which led to it trending on the platform.

In written submissions, Mr Vine’s lawyer claimed Mr Barton’s “ongoing attacks” on Mr Vine were “on a very significant scale”, with some posts being seen by more than 2.5 million people.

Lawyers for Mr Vine claim the posts contained “clear references to [Mr Vine] having a sexual interest in children” and had led to him being subjected to “paedophilic slurs”, while barristers for Mr Barton said that the publications “would obviously not” lead people to believe Mr Vine was “a paedophile”.

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