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Taking Criticism Seriously

Keith Burstein

Panned by reviewer, then told to go bankrupt

By Amol Rajan

A British composer was told to go bankrupt yesterday after he unsuccessfully tried to sue the London Evening Standard for libel. Keith Burstein ran up legal costs of £67,000 defending a test-case libel action against Associated Newspapers, publishers of the Standard, over a critical review of one of his operas.

He told Chief Registrar Stephen Baister in the Royal Courts of Justice that he was taking the case to the European Court of Human Rights. The registrar said Mr Burstein was entitled to take the case in Europe but he was required to pay the legal costs already run up. This would entail complying with a court order against him by paying the £67,000.

When Mr Burstein told the registrar he could not pay, Mr Baister replied: "Then you go bankrupt." He added that, in balancing the rights of Associated Newspapers against the speculative nature of what Mr Burstein was hoping to do, it was proper to rule on the side of the newspaper group, which also publishes the Daily Mail, in forcing him to pay legal costs.

Mr Burstein, 51, confirmed that he would not be able to pay. He is working on a new symphony for the South Bank Symphonia and on an opera with Ben Okri, the Booker Prize winner. "I lead a rather simple life and don't have many material possessions," he said later.

Read more about this at the Independent website: