Critic Found Guilty of Libel
In a ruling that has stunned food and wine critics throughout the world, a jury has awarded a Belfast restaurant ?25,000 for a “defamatory” review by Caroline Workman.
The owner of Goodfellas restaurant, Ciaran Convery, brought the suit against Workman in response to a “hatchet job” of a review. As reported by Decanter Magazine, in 2000, Workman described the, “Staff as unhelpful, the cola as flat, and the chicken marsala as ‘so sweet as to be inedible.’” This is clearly not a flattering review, but libel?
Not surprisingly, the judgment has created quite a stir amongst journalists and critics. It has already been appealed, and National Union of Journalists is throwing its weight behind the issue.
Decanter’s Brian St Pierre summed up the story best when he said, “This says more about juries than about restaurants or critics. It’s easier to convince a jury that a reviewer has been unfair than it is to argue the finer points of free speech.”
By appealing to the jurists’ emotions, all reason flew out the window. Rather than it being evaluated as a matter of free speech, the issue was erroneously shifted to whether or not Workman was being fair with her critique.