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Friday 10 July 2020

Corbyn Libel Defeat ISN’T

Those who look in regularly on Zelo Street may recall the preliminary hearing (the “meanings” hearing) in a defamation action brought by Countdown numbers person Rachel Riley against Labour activist Laura Murray. This achieved temporary infamy after the judgment was leaked in advance of its publication date, leaving the suspicion that one of the parties had leaked to the press - a potential contempt of court.
When the judgment was more correctly publicised, it was spun to the press as a victory, despite the case proper not having come to court. That happened all over again when the press was briefed that another “meanings” hearing, for an action brought by Ms Riley against barrister Jane Heybroek, over a Retweet (you read that right) was also a victory. This was not the case; Ms Heybroek’s team won that one on points.

So now we come to yet another “victory” being briefed to the press, this time in an action brought by Richard Millett against former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. This time, it is the Jewish Chronicle which has told, under the by-line of Lee Harpin, that “Pro-Israel activist Richard Millett wins first stage of High Court libel case against Jeremy Corbyn”.

How victorious was this? “A High Court judge has ruled that statements made by Jeremy Corbyn on BBC1's Andrew Marr Show in September 2018 could be held to be defamatory of the pro-Israel activist Richard Millett”. Ah, COULD. Do go on.

In a judgement delivered on Friday Mr Justice Saini rejected the claim by lawyers representing the former Labour leader that he was not referring to Mr Millett when he appeared on the programme and was asked to defend earlier remarks made about ‘Zionists’ who, he believed, ‘do not understand English irony’”. So the Judge has decided that Jezza could be said to have referred to Millett in his interview.
Mark Lewis. Again

What did he say that has been judged to be potentially defamatory of Millett? Here’s what the judgment has highlighted. “Well, I was at a meeting in the House of Commons and the two people I referred to had been incredibly disruptive, indeed the police wanted to throw them out of the meeting. I didn't. I said they should remain in the meeting. They had been disruptive at a number of meetings. At the later meeting when Manuel spoke they were quiet, but they came up and were really, really strong on him afterwards and he was quite upset by it. I know Manuel Hassassian quite well. And I was speaking in his defence. Manuel of course is the Palestinian Ambassador of this country”. There is more.

They were very, very abusive to Manuel. Very abusive. And I was upset on his behalf from what he'd - he'd spoken obviously at the meeting but also the way he was treated by them at the end of it. And so I felt I should say something in his support. And I did”. So the matter hinges on Corbyn accusing Millett of “seriously abusive behaviour”.

And who has been speaking to the JC? “Mark Lewis, of Patron Law, who is representing Mr Millett”. If only he’d also included “on the morning of the hearing of the trial [Millett] sought permission to amend his Particulars of Claim to rely upon 5 additional articles [but] I refuse permission to amend to plead reliance on the new articles” for balance.

There has been no victory. Because there has been no trial. I’ll just leave that one there.
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