Produced by Matchlight, (C) Matchlight 2011
London is known as the "libel capital of the world" with people coming from all over to use the British legal system to sue or defend their reputation or right to privacy. In a major six part documentary series for BBC One, we gain extraordinary access to the top lawyers and firms operating in this field and, through a rich range of cases, we unpack this fascinating and timely subject.
First broadcast March/April/May 2011, BBC 1 at 10.35pm
The Independent: "The exciting thing is that last night also offered a real example of Magic Evidence, in See You in Court, a new series about our spavined legal system, which began by following Sheryl Gascoigne and Lembit Opik in two individual libel cases. Struggling to refute an accusation that she hadn't talked to her mother-in-law in eight years, Sheryl discovered footage of herself making a sympathetic phone call to Gazza's mum, after trailing through hours of raw footage from a fly-on-the-wall documentary. Gotcha, as they like to say in tabloid land. Lembit Opik wasn't quite as successful in his attempt to seek redress for a pugnacious Rod Liddle column that had represented him as a somewhat comical figure, and the deserving recipient of the last election's most surprising defeat ... His case might have been lousy, but his larger point was sound, though rather more convincingly backed up by Sheryl's experience. Thoroughly monstered by the tabloids, she actually had to put her house up for sale in order to cover the legal deposit should her wealthy opponents actually fight all the way to the courtroom. And if it went to court, even if she won and had costs awarded to her she would have ended up seriously out of pocket. In a game of chicken with a big newspaper, most individuals blink first, so it was rather heartening that Sheryl eventually extracted an apology and damages in all her cases. Unfortunately, the newspapers were probably still ahead on the deal, since they may have made more from the lies than the correction eventually cost them. It looks as if future episodes will demonstrate the unfitness of our libel laws with cases in which the positions of complainant and defendant are reversed, and journalists and commentators find themselves bullied into silence by the same threat of ruination."