We have the most stupid, wasteful and self destructive libel laws in the world. Last Friday afternoon in a hearing at the Royal Court of Justice an application to strike out libel action against Richard Dawkins, Amazon and Vaughan Jones (see 2nd left) was agreed and a £75,000 cost judgementawarded against the claimant Christopher McGarth.
I do actually blame the court process and the law for this complete and utter waste of time and a huge amount of personal, company and public money.
Litigants in person who have frankly ridiculous legal cases are allowed by the Court to bankrupt not only themselves but also those they perceive to have grievances against almost regardless of the merits of their often weird and wonderful claims.
There is a 39 page written judgement with regard to this latest case which is mostly legal gobbledygook. However I was pleased to see a couple of references in the judgement justifying the strike out to the completely bonkers Kaschke case that I had been most unfortunately a party to. Fellow libel survivors David Osler and Hardeep Singh joined Vaughan outside the Court (see 2nd left with legal advisers including the indomitable Robert Dougans 3rd right).
Afterwards we went for some celebratory sherbets in a local hostelry followed by the traditional basement "libel victory curry" (joined by my best mate ever Mrs Stroppy Olser!). Media lawyer David Allen Green (aka Jack of Kent) also assisted with the defence. When he posts on case I will link.
I am glad you have publicised the scandal of public money being wasted and court resources and processes being abused in this way. And to some extent I believe it is the fault of the system which allows these pathetic cases to proceed. Things are a little better now and judges much more proactive in case management. In that sense Mr Jones got off relatively lightly (although I am sure he would not agree!) For example, I know of one internet libel case which started in 2007 and had a dozen hearings before the case was finally and completely dismissed as hopeless and vexatious last year. That case would have cost the taxpayer hundreds of thousands of pounds. What added insult to injury is the fact a top law firm sponsored the claimant who was exempt from court fees to waste public money on this nonsense. The fool even went on to try to sue the judge and his own barrister!
I agree. Who really gives a damn if someone slag’s you off? Okay if you can prove that what is said about you is malicious and you can prove it actually causes you significant material harm or loss that is one thing. But most libel cases as far as I can work out are illiberal cant and motivated simply by malice and/or bullying by the very rich or the very mad.
Go to any UK Country Court any day of the week and see the rough justice melted out the really vulnerable "litigants in person" who end up losing their homes or even their liberty and compare their fate with the completely disproportionate presumptions by our highest Court in the land in favour of entirely outdated 18th century concepts of upper class gentile class and honour.
Good point - if I came on here and got into a row with you and called you a 'nob' for supporting Labour would you sue me?
These extracts (see below) from the previous judgement mentioned should show the sort of rubbish the courts are faced with. The McGrath case clearly in the same category.
The post in para 50 of the judgement was a response from one individual to the claimant's threats of libel action to dozens of others on a public board bulletin board. He too was sued for his pains in pleading for common sense after a silly row on the board. The claimant even demanded reparations for libel on the same BB from these people and posted up the details of his solicitor for potential defendants to send the money to! In one case he demanded £100,000.
The post he took offence to (set out in (50)) show how the claimant construed it. Simply unbelievable - suing someone for telling them to grow up!
Finally a very important point the judge (Eady J) made about internet 'flame wars' (and this would equally apply to Mr Jones case too because of McGrath's participation on the discussion leading to the action) is this:
27. Rather laboriously, in his particulars of claim against Mr Love, Mr Smith attempts to define "appalling" by reference to "someone who acted in a manner that causes dismay, horror or revulsion to others". Yet the remarks on the bulletin board by these multiple defendants were not simply made in a vacuum. Any reader would know the context and recognise the conduct on Mr Smith 's part which was being characterised as "appalling" and be able to form his or own view of it. This means that Mr Smith 's reputation in the eyes of such a person is likely to depend primarily on what he himself has done, and is known to have done, rather than on what others are saying about it.
The full judgememt - although there were about 20 hearings in all.
50.Mr McCormick made a number of pithy and down-to-earth observations such as, for example, "As if LGB shareholders getting fleeced wasn't bad enough we then get crap like this". He continued:
"Bulletin board posters taking other posters to court coz he called me names.
It's absolutely pathetic and Anomolous (the claimant) should be totally ashamed of himself here. GROW UP. If I had a pound for every time I'd been called a w*nker or something far worse than I would be a rich bloke yet I've never run to the law once.
Life's too short for crap like this. You get one shot at life and to waste it in this manner is just that, a WASTE.
Whatever happens tomorrow in that court, Anomolous has already lost the respect of many many people here on ADVFN ."
This might be thought to echo the sentiments expressed by Lord Phillips MR in Jameel at  and 
51.In the particulars of claim Mr Smith pleads the following natural and ordinary meanings, namely that he:
"(a) should be ashamed of himself,
(b) should grow up,
(c) was wasting his life
(d) has lost the respect of 'many many people' on ADVFN ".
"20 hearings"! What a load of old nonsense.
Something must be done to change the law.
Hope you support http://www.libelreform.org/
Yes - probably that case not as high profile as some but a classic example of what was wrong (and still is to some extent) with our system.
I support the Libel Reform Campaign and have been in touch with them on a few occasions. Initially I thought it might be a campaign group run for the benefit of a few journalists and celebrity buddies but can see that through the campaign and raising awareness have helped so many - including 'humble bloggers'. I think they needed to make it clear that potentially anyone who used the internet could be sued and by doing that now gathered such a strong and broad support. I believe they have been responsible for changing attitudes in the judiciary and shaping some of the positive decisions which have come out of the High Court in the last two years. Libel law needs changing but it has been good to see in advance of that change, judges now interpreting the law far more favourably to defendants.
On that note I would also like to say well done Mr Justice Eady. He has taken alot of stick over the years (and like all judges made a few errors - e.g Simon Singh) but this criticism has largely been unfair. If one looks beyond his exterior you will see he has the common touch and knows how to write a decision in simple and plain language. I challenge any other judge to cut through the nonsense and produce a decison as clear and as robust as the above mentioned case.
Yes, I would agree with your comments about Eady. In our case he did his best to get the claimant to stop her daftness and his judgement striking out her application against Dave Osler was brilliant and it also settled my case.
Not sure where you live but send me an email john.gray2012ATbtinternetDOTcom. We have an informal libel survivors "club" (of sorts) and I'll invite you to the next case I hear about (there are no doubt others going on as we speak).
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