Galliano slaps defamation action on his accusers

High drama in high fashion week as John Galliano got arrested by the Paris police for allegedly unleashing an anti-semitic and racist rant at some fellow café customers.

The alleged crime:
According to his accusers - a Géraldine Bloch and a Philippe Virgiti - the top (if eccentric) fashion designer - sat at a table at one of the capital's more hip cafés - La Perle - and, having ordered a mojito to drink turned round and called Bloch a b**ch and said to her and Virgiti.."dirty Jewish face, you should be dead...f***g Asian bastard, I will kill you." - which certainly would not be the sort of small talk you would expect to hear on a night out. It was the outraged Bloch (seemingly she is not jewish anyway) who called the police who proceeded to arrest Galliano but then released him pending further investigations.

The penalty:
Under French law if you make anti-semitic (or equally racist) remarks then this is punishable by up to 6 months in prison.

The reaction:
The usual moral outrage and he was suspended from his post as the main designer at Dior. Some see this as a major event while others consider this to be prudent action from a reputational point of view for Dior until the police clarify what went on. If he were to be dropped by Dior that would have a big impact on the label as much as on him.

The defamation claim:
While Bloch went on French TV 'anonymously' to be paid for her version of events, there have been several reports that shed a different light on events and present a picture where Galliano took up his table at La Perle and then acknowledged the people at the table next to him (Bloch and Virgiti) and it was them who turned on Galliano and said to him that he was 'ugly and disgusting' and told him to go away - to which he then replied to Bloch that she was ugly and that her 'bag' was also ugly.

So it seems that there are conflicting versions of events and it would appear that the one subsequently emerging seems less random than the one originally complained of.

From a defamation perspective the damage this episode has done to Galliano (in the short term if proven to be untrue) is certainly far further reaching than the exchange between the tables at La Perle.

If it transpires that those who were quick to accuse were unfounded in their accusatons then it could be they who face the penalty.

French defamation law:
This is regulated by the 1881 Free Press Law that provides that any "allegation or imputation of a fact which undermines the honour or reputation" of the person who is the subject of the allegation or imputation amounts to libel.

So if Galliano did not in fact call Bloch a bitch or threaten to kill Virgiti for being Asian then it could be te accusers who get called to account rather than the accused - which under French law could transalte into a custodial sentenced and/or fine.

Given the impact this has had so far its unlikely Galliano is going to drop his action in a hurry.

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