27 Mar 2012

Big win for Cairns in defamation case

1:49 pm on 27 March 2012

Retired New Zealand cricketer Chris Cairns has won a match-fixing libel case against former Indian Premier League boss Lalit Modi.

The case at London's High Court is being seen as a significant legal precedent, as it is the first in England involving a libel claim arising from a statement made on the social networking site Twitter.

The case was brought by Chris Cairns over a tweet by Modi in January 2010 accusing the New Zealander of match-fixing. Modi now faces a huge bill for damages and costs, Radio New Zealand's London correspondent reports.

In a 46-page document released on Monday, Justice Bean ruled in Mr Cairns's favour and ordered that Modi pay £90 000 in damages and £400 000 in costs. The judge also granted Mr Cairns an injunction banning Modi from repeating the libel.

During an eight-day trial earlier in March, Modi's legal team tried to prove that Mr Cairns was corrupt when contracted to the rival Indian Cricket League (ICL) in 2008 and that he was sacked from the tournament over the allegations.

However, the allrounder maintained that his dismissal from the ICL, where he was captain of the Chandigarh Lions, was because he failed to declare an ongoing ankle injury.

The judgement on Monday says Lalit Modi failed to come up with any reliable evidence that Chris Cairns had been involved in match-fixing or spot-fixing, or even strong grounds for suspicion of cheating.

Justice Bean dismissed the evidence of several witnesses lined up by Modi's legal team and said its conduct in the case was a factor in the size of the damages awarded.

Neither was in court for the ruling on Monday, but in a statement Mr Cairns said the the verdict lifts a dark cloud. He said feels great relief that he can walk into cricket grounds around the world with his head held high.

Lalit Modi was declared bankrupt earlier in March and has confirmed that he will lodge an appeal. However, Justice Bean has only given him leave to appeal the amount of damages, not the liability.

Mr Cairns's solicitor Rhory Robertson welcomed the findings and, despite the threat of an appeal, was "fairly confident" that his client would receive the full amount.

Chris Cairns and his wife are understood to have returned to their home in Canberra, Australia.

The case and Twitter

Speaking outside court on Monday, Chris Cairns's solicitor Rhory Robertson said he thought that the use of Twitter made a big difference to the outcome.

"The whole point about Twitter is that it goes viral and it goes around the world and that's the danger - particularly when it's about a professional sportsman.

"Everybody who's interested in cricket is going to know what was said and hopefully everybody who's interested in cricket will know what the result has been today."

A legal expert in New Zealand, Steven Price, says the case means sites like Twitter can be accused.

"There's no doubt about the fact that if you put something up on Twitter you are publishing it, for the purposes of defamation law, and you can be held accountable for it in a court.

"The ordinary principles of defamation apply, complicated slightly by the fact that the person you might want to sue might be in a different country."