The use of lawyers by the rich to silence those less well off has been with us since time immemorial: disgraced publisher Robert Maxwell was infamous for going after his critics this way; politician Jeremy Thorpe reached for the lawyers when Private Eye magazine told the world he was about to resign as leader of the Liberal Party (which he was).
Way back in the 1950s, entertainer Lee Liberace went after a Daily Mirror columnist for suggesting he was gay. Liberace was gay. But to admit that in those days would have killed his career stone dead. So he sued, and won. More recently, the Barclay Brothers have resorted to suing those who pass adverse comment on their character. Maybe they really are aggrieved at the attention, but were they not so well off, they would not sue.
And they lost. Which brings us to the continuing saga of minor Slebs Rachel Riley, the current numbers person on Channel 4 show Countdown, and her pal Tracy Ann Oberman, an equally minor Sleb who self-describes as a “jobbing actor”. Both have taken grave exception to a post by Shaun Lawson regarding their conduct towards a young Labour Party activist and her father. But Lawson is not being sued.
Mike Sivier, on the other hand, who writes the Vox Political blog, is being sued, apparently for quoting from Lawson’s post. How can that be? Has Lawson been prevailed upon to take his post down? Apparently not. But Lawson lives in Punta del Este, which is in Uruguay. Ms Riley’s lawyers have, it seems, decided not to go after him for this reason.
Tracy Ann Oberman
But they have made legal threats against a whole host of those quoting Lawson’s post, which, before anyone makes the accusation, I am not doing here. With Sivier, they have gone further, and have now commenced proceedings. Sivier’s post on the event shows the hideously unequal struggle he faces in defending himself.
As he says, “Rachel Riley has filed proceedings against me for libel. She wants £50,000 plus costs - and her costs are likely to be a six-figure sum - along with an injunction for me not to repeat … claims against her … That is a terrifying amount of money for a person of modest means to face”. And he has more information about Ms Riley’s claim.
“She is also claiming that this crowdfunding page is an aggravating factor - that my appeal for help after she tried to bully me with her overwhelmingly superior funds has made matters worse”. Well, quite. How dare he defend himself? The impression of the rich bullying the less well off into submission is inescapable. And all for what, exactly?
Mike Sivier - being sued
That impression is only reinforced when Sivier tells “Costs for a preliminary hearing are likely to be more than £20,000 - and after the work my legal team has done already, my fund stands at only a little more than £4,000”. One can almost see the cop with the steel-tipped boots complaining about the bloke lying on the pavement moaning, on the grounds that he viciously attacked those boots with his groin.
I’m sure someone thinks this is a good use of the law. But I also suspect that those people are in a small minority, which will become ever smaller. Also, did someone say Streisand?
You can donate to Mike Sivier’s fighting fund HERE. There will be more on this later.
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