Friday, December 05, 2008

Being Sued for Libel by a Disrespectful Tory

Alex Hilton at Labourhome first brought this to attention, then yesterday, Dave Osler, in this post here spilled the beans good and proper about an attempt to sue us all for libel.

Now, I am convinced that the case against us (and "Private Eye – now “settled”, The Labour Party – kicked out with costs awarded against the claimant and “Der Spiegel” – just coming up to speed) is frivolous and vexatious (also just plain nonsense). That is my opinion. However, I am not sure what the Court thinks about reporting actual details of the case so I will have to keep Mum for the moment.

I think that the law needs to be changed. This is in one way a truly fascinating and amazing experience but on the other it is in my view a colossal and tragic waste of Court time and money. Since there is no “Court” costs awarded in English libel cases, the costs to the public purse so far (which cannot be claimed against claimants or defendants) must run into thousand and thousands of pounds. What a disgrace. Please note how this money could have been better spent elsewhere.

I do think that with regard to Alex and Labourhome that it is just absolutely outrageous that they are facing any such legal action. I posted the original article on Labourhome and accept responsibility for it. Sue me if you must. If this legal action was to be successful then there would be no Labour, Conservative or whatever blogs which allowed un-moderated comments or posts. Even moderated blogs would be under threat since the law allows spurious claims to be made which cost £1000's to defend.

I hope all bloggers will pause for a moment and put aside sectarian interests (only for a moment of course) and realise that “there for the grace of god” argument applies to our little problem and any support you can offer in our common cause will be greatly appreciated.

Dave and I are defending ourselves in person but Alex has employed solicitors - so click on his post on Labourhome to donate to his costs and support the call for real on-line freedom of speech and expression for all.

Please note that for very obvious reasons I will have to delete any comments which may relate to the claimant or the case. You can email me privately via my blog profile (left).

(I've updated this post to take account of my Labourhome one)


Charlie Marks said...

Good luck, comrade!

John Gray said...

Thanks Charlie!

Richard Bartholomew said...

One reform should be that, unless the plaintiff has a very good reason otherwise and can show they have the cash to pay should they lose, cases should be settled in the small claims court. At the moment losing a libel action can have far more devastating consequences than a minor criminal conviction. There was a libel case settled through the small claims court in 2002, involving a user of Friendsreunited.

I was also once (in 2006) threatened with a libel action, in part over a comment left by someone else - I argued that I wasn't the author so wasn't responsible. I don't know how that would have played out in court, and luckily my opponent (a supposed right-"libertarian"!) decided not to pursue it, perhaps because he didn't want his name enshrined forever in what would have been a very controversial judgement.

John Gray said...

Good idea Richard. Frankly I think that most political bloggers have just been plain lucky so far that they have not been sued.

Something needs to change - pdq.