The U.K. Court of Appeal has ruled that the trial judge in Wright v McCormack was legally entitled to award only nominal damages to Dr. Craig Wright, despite finding that Peter McCormack had caused serious damage to his reputation. Previous cost orders demanding that McCormack pay Dr. Wright’s pre-trial costs, which are expected to be more than £1 million, are unaffected.
Dr. Wright won against Peter McCormack at a trial for defamation back in 2022 over a series of publications the blogger had made on social media calling Dr. Wright a fraud. At trial, McCormack did not argue that his statements were true, which would have afforded him a full defence if accepted by the court. Ultimately, the court found that McCormack was liable to Dr. Wright for defamation.
However, trial judge Justice Chamberlain only awarded nominal damages of £1 to Dr. Wright. This was due to an argument which Dr. Wright abandoned before trial that McCormack’s statements had caused him to be disinvited to a series of conferences. McCormack’s lawyers later introduced evidence during trial which cast doubt over whether this had happened. Even though Dr. Wright never advanced the argument at trial, Justice Chamberlain found that Dr. Wright had originally intended to advance a deliberately dishonest case which justified an award of nominal damages.
As the appeal only concerned whether the judge was entitled to award nominal damages under the law, the Lord Justices of the Court of Appeal were not permitted to examine whether there was a basis for Justice Chamberlain’s findings as to Dr. Wright’s alleged dishonesty. Their finding was merely that an award of nominal damages was permitted under the law.
In a statement, Dr. Wright said:
“I am very disappointed that the Court of Appeal has not given due recognition to the damage caused to me by orchestrated online vitriol. Such abusive communications, viewable worldwide, have had a severe impact on me and my wellbeing. The trolling narrative is purely designed to unfairly and improperly denigrate my life’s work. McCormack was wrong in his tweets and video when he said that I am not Satoshi Nakamoto – and as such has caused me harm both personally and professionally.
“So, given the finding of serious harm, I am disappointed that the compensatory damages due from McCormack remain diminished – not for their monetary value but for the message this sends to potential future perpetrators of detrimental mistruths online.”
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