A High Court judge has delivered a major blow to Jody Scheckter’s campaign to overturn The Portman Group’s ruling that his organic ales appeal to children and should be banned.
The former F1 driver is fighting calls by the group for retailers to withdraw bottles of his Laverstoke Park ale from shelves because they feature a child’s drawing.
Last month, he called for a judicial review, prompting the Portman Group to suspend a 7 January deadline for retailers to remove the products. However, in the latest twist, Mr Justice Walker has thrown out Scheckter’s legal bid, ruling that his claims that the group had not taken expert evidence or been transparent enough with its findings were “devoid of merit”.
Scheckter’s argument that the rules should target teenagers rather than young children “flies in the face” of the aim of the code and was “contrary to common sense”, he added. “The only investigation needed was to look at the packaging and consider what was said about it. Expert evidence was not required in order to decide whether it has a particular appeal to children.”
Scheckter told The Grocer he “strongly disagreed” with the ruling and would “do whatever it takes” to overturn it. “I will continue to fight this until I have exhausted every possible course of legal action,” he said. “We don’t think anyone in their right mind supports this decision.”
The Portman Group said: “We would again reiterate our desire that Laverstoke work with the Portman Group advisory service to redesign its labels without troubling the court further.”
Scheckter launched the legal bid after the Portman Group ruled in October that the image, of ‘Mr Laverstoke’ might cause very young children to mistake the beer range as non-alcoholic.