Joey Barton calling Jeremy Vine a ‘bike nonce’ was defamatory, judge rules

<span>The high court ruled that 11 social media posts by Joey Barton on X between January and March could defame Jeremy Vine.</span><span>Photograph: Jordan Pettitt/PA</span>
The high court ruled that 11 social media posts by Joey Barton on X between January and March could defame Jeremy Vine.Photograph: Jordan Pettitt/PA

The former footballer and manager Joey Barton calling the broadcaster Jeremy Vine a “bike nonce” on social media was defamatory, a high court judge has ruled.

The high court ruled on Friday that 11 social media posts could defame Vine, the radio and TV presenter who is suing Barton after he called him a “bike nonce” and a “pedo defender” on X, formerly known as Twitter, between January and March.

“The hypothetical reader would not have gained the impression that this was meaningless abuse, in the heat of the moment,” Justice Steyn said, adding: “It was a statement of fact, and it was defamatory at common law.”

A preliminary hearing earlier this month in London sought to determine the “natural and ordinary” meaning of the words and images posted on X, and whether they constituted a statement or statements of fact or opinion.

The judge said the juxtaposition of the words “nonce” followed by the assertion that Vine is known as a “pedo” is “striking” and reinforced “the impression that the former was used in the sense of ‘paedophile’”.

Lawyers acting for Vine said at the preliminary hearing on 9 May that the abuse began last year after Barton’s comments calling the female football pundits Eni Aluko and Lucy Ward “the Fred and Rose West of football commentary”, referring to the notorious murderous couple.

Vine responded, asking if “we are dealing with a brain injury here?”, to which his lawyer said resulted in a “calculated and sustained attack” on Vine in January this year.

Lawyers acting for Vine also argued that a hypothetical reader “would appreciate that ‘bacon’ was short for the rhyming-slang expression ‘bacon bonce’ meaning ‘nonce’, referring to one of the tweets which called Vine a “bike nonce” and “raving bacon”.

Other tweets by Barton referenced Vine’s views on the Covid vaccine, called Vine a “weasel” and “government shill” and said, “if you see this fella by a primary school call 999”.

Upon learning he was facing legal action, Barton posted on X: “Fella who served me the papers was sound. Told me he completely agreed with me and to keep going.”

Lawyers acting for Barton said the posts conveyed “no meaning” or none that was defamatory under law, and said a reader would have to be “careless” and “unsophisticated” to think Barton was alleging paedophilia.

“It would be seen as abuse posted in the heat of the moment which no one would take seriously, and which has no meaning,” Barton’s lawyer argued.