Jury members 'are not peasants'

A solicitor has spoken out for all of the profession in Belfast and Northern Ireland by voicing concerns that juries are sometimes treated like idiots.

In Belfast's Court of Appeal a solicitor argued that jurors were capable enough of understanding the laws of libel to make a decision which could not be overturned.

The argument arose after the Irish News appealed against a jury awarding a Belfast restaurateur £25,000 in compensation after the newspaper printed a critical review of his restaurant.

A food critic for the publication criticised west Belfast's Goodfellas outlet for having poor quality food and staff as well as being smoky.

Goodfellas owner Ciaran Convery called his solicitors following Caroline Workman's review, which he branded as defamatory and damaging as well as hurtful.

But after the newspaper took the case to Belfast's appeals court, a solicitor acting on behalf of Mr Convery told three judges that written guidance the jurors received would not have confused them.

He said juries were not "thick" or "peasants" who could not understand law that was "not actually that complicated".

The solicitor said that it was a clear case of looking at the article to decide whether its publication had done anybody any harm.

This case is raising questions about the right to freedom of expression and current libel laws.

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