Editorial

Ed Drake

UK court hands down jurisdictional ruling on Dr. Craig Wright’s libel claim, but fight is far from over

A U.K. High Court judge has delivered a jurisdictional ruling on Dr. Craig Wright’s legal claim for libel against Roger Ver, but the battle on the merits is not yet over.

Wright filed a libel claim in the courts of England and Wales against the Bitcoin.com CEO in May in response to a video posted on Bitcoin.com’s YouTube channel in April featuring Ver who declared, “Craig Wright is a liar and fraud. So sue me. Again.” Wright has initiated a series of legal actions against individuals and parties who claim he is a fraud or otherwise deny his statement that he is the man behind the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto, the creator of Bitcoin.

On Wednesday, however, Wright was dealt with a procedural setback after U.K. High Court Judge Matthew Nicklin ruled that the courts of England and Wales were not the proper jurisdiction over the libel case against Ver. In his ruling, Nicklin wrote:

 “The claimant has not satisfied me that England and Wales is clearly the most appropriate place to bring his action for defamation over the publications complained of. In consequence, the court has no jurisdiction to hear and determine the action.”

It’s worth noting that this ruling does not at all address the merits of Wright’s claim (i.e., whether Ver committed libel by calling Wright a fraud). The decision was merely a procedural one focused on whether England and Wales was the proper jurisdiction to hear Wright’s claim against Ver. The U.K. Court focussed heavily on whether Wright has a global reputation even though he has lived in the U.K. since 2015; this would suggest that a libel victim residing in the U.K. could not sue in English courts if that libel victim was known globally. That would beg the question of where — if anywhere — it is appropriate for a libel victim to sue after having moved to the U.K. for several years. In today’s online and social media age, where commentary about people travels quickly across the globe, it is difficult to see how anyone could meet the supposed jurisdictional burden for suing in England imposed by the U.K. High Court judge in this particular instance.

However, Wright is not planning to back down and intends to appeal the judgment on jurisdiction, so that he can reach a decision on the merits. In contrast, Ver had a chance to present his case in court, but instead of presenting a defense on the merits, sought to avoid the case on jurisdictional grounds by trying to argue the U.S. is a more appropriate jurisdiction — an odd argument given that Ver has renounced his U.S. citizenship and is neither domiciled nor a resident in the country.

Wright is seeking £100,000 in monetary damages as well as an undertaking restraining Ver and any of his affiliated entities from making further allegations that deny the nChain chief scientist’s claim to being Satoshi Nakamoto. The merits have yet to be decided, as the parties continue to battle over the question of which country’s courts have jurisdiction to hear the case.

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