A court's decision to order a newspaper to pay out £25,000 after a jury found a food critic's review of an Italian restaurant was defamatory has received a mixed reaction in the industry.
Caroline Workman criticised the quality of the food and drink and staff at Goodfellas Restaurant & Pizzeria, Belfast in an Irish News review in 2000.
Owner Ciaran Convery claimed the article, which described his staff as unhelpful, his cola as flat, and his chicken Marsala as "so sweet as to be inedible", was a "hatchet job" and sued.
A jury at Belfast High Court agreed with his lawyers' claims that the review was defamatory, damaging and hurtful. The Irish News has now lodged an appeal.
Giles Coren, food critic at The Times, expects the newspaper to win the appeal but warned that, if upheld, the decision would be "disastrous".
"It would mean interesting, fun and truthful critical writing by critics such as AA Gill would be stamped on, which would be a real shame," he told Caterer.
But chef-proprietor Tom Aikens said critics should not have completely free rein. "It's a critic's job to critique a restaurant and I do believe in freedom of speech," he told Caterer. "But their criticism must be justified and not over the top and unduly harsh."
However, Jeremy Clarke-Williams, joint head of defamation at law firm Russell Jones & Walker, insisted the decision should not be taken as a curtailment on the freedom of the press.
"Each case turns on its own facts and evidence, and no precedent has been set by this judgment, however unusual it may be," he said.
By Daniel Thomas
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