Welcome To Zelo Street!

This is a blog of liberal stance and independent mind

Wednesday 29 July 2020

Jane Heybroek’s Unanswered Questions

Only two months ago, Mail Online was claimingCountdown star Rachel Riley and actress Tracy-Ann Oberman have won the first round of a High Court libel battle against a barrister after a judge ruled a blog link she shared on social media 'could be considered defamatory.’ Ms Riley and Ms Oberman are suing barrister Jane Heybroek after she shared a link on Twitter to a blog published in January last year”.
He lost this one ...

At the time, Zelo Street pointed out that there had been no victory. This, it now transpires, was most prescient: the libel action brought by Ms Riley and Ms Oberman has now collapsed. Moreover, they have agreed to make a contribution to Ms Heybroek’s costs. It is a far cry from the declaration of intent signalled early last year.

Then, as the Guardian reported, “The Countdown presenter Rachel Riley and former EastEnders actor Tracy Ann Oberman are preparing legal action against up to 70 individuals for tweets relating to their campaign against antisemitism in the Labour party, according to the pair’s lawyer”. And who was their lawyer?

Mark Lewis … said he will go to court and force Twitter to release the details of individuals who made the contentious posts if users do not voluntarily comply with his request to provide formal contact details”. Otherwise known as a Norwich Pharmacal order. These have to be paid for by the claimant. Ultimately, none were made (no comment). And of the original 70, Ms Heybroek was the only one against whom a claim proceeded.

So what did she do? She Retweeted a Tweet by Shaun Lawson which contained a link to a post he had written. As she has now told, this “had been re-tweeted/shared by hundreds of people. Some of those people were threatened with legal action like me; others were not”. She was sued “despite the fact that I had deleted my re-tweet before I had even received Letters of Claim”. So what damage had her actions allegedly done?
... so did she ...

I did not even know how long my re-tweet had been live for. Neither, it seems, did Ms Riley or Ms Oberman. There was no evidence, that I am aware of, to suggest that anyone had read the blog article as a result of clicking the link in my re-tweet”. She was being sued, despite the claimants being unable to pony up evidence of reputational damage.

Note also that the press were told that the action by Ms Riley and Ms Oberman was “for tweets relating to their campaign against antisemitism”. Shaun Lawson, who Ms Heybroek RTd, is Jewish. His grandmother is a Holocaust survivor. Yet, had she lost that action, it is not inconceivable that accusations of anti-Semitism would have followed.

So why proceed, given there was no evidence of reputational damage, or indeed any social media engagement? This part of Ms Heybroek’s statement today is telling. “Ms Riley and Ms Oberman were being represented, from the very outset, on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis, and had ‘after the event insurance’. This meant that there was almost no risk to them in bringing the claim. Many people would have felt forced to settle for reasons of pragmatism”. Nobody wants to literally bet the house on an uncertain outcome.

Not so much “sue us if you think you’re hard enough” (the default position of many newspapers and magazines), but “dare to defend yourself if you think you’re hard enough”. All over an article whose author is not being pursued. You read that right.
... and so did she

Why so? Well, Lawson lives in Uruguay, and it is believed that there would be some difficulty enforcing any order for costs or damages. But Mark Lewis said last year “This is not about money … They’re not looking to enrich themselves by taking legal action. They’re looking to stop vile lies”. So why not proceed against Lawson anyway?

After all, Ms Riley and Ms Oberman aren’t short of a bob or two, so if it’s about defending reputations, and not about money, why not pursue the person whose article is at the centre of events? Perhaps Ms Riley, Ms Oberman and their chosen lawyer will let us know.

As to who has won this one, consider this: out of Mark Lewis, Rachel Riley, Tracy Ann Oberman and Jane Heybroek, only one of them is discussing the case on Twitter today. Those who brought and pursed the legal action have been conspicuous by their silence.

Thanks to Ms Heybroek and her legal team, we are now better informed about the legal actions being brought on behalf of Ms Riley and Ms Oberman. Even if the digesting of that information has left a decidedly unpleasant taste in its wake.
Enjoy your visit to Zelo Street? You can help this truly independent blog carry on talking truth to power, while retaining its sense of humour, by adding to its Just Giving page at



Anonymous said...

I must say this reverse was well visited on the utterly disgusting and unpleasant trio of Lewis, Oberman and Riley.

I look forward to seeing them, legally speaking, having their arses kicked from pillar to post in similar actions.

Malcolm Armsteen said...

I am absolutely furious at this craven capitulation. I was assured by the two ladies, and Frances Barber, that this was very winnable.

Anonymous said...

This is good news; I wonder if the actors are as confident as they appeared when announcing other actions.

Still, I cannot but feel a sense of 'mission accomplished'. Ms Heybroek tweets "Please, especially, read the last part of it [her statement]". This reads "I ask people, for their own sakes, not to discuss the content of Mr Lawson's article, nor to comment on Ms Riley or Ms Oberman on social media more generally". Kind of puts Tim's comments on who won into perspective.

Any one have any information as to the hearing that Mr Justice Jay ordered into the leak after the meanings hearing? “I regret that it has proved necessary to conduct a further remote hearing after a draft of my judgment was provided to the parties”. Interesting use of the passive voice there. What made it necessary? Or who, as the case may be?

Anonymous said...

My dear Malcolm. May I ask if you have seen McKellen's Lear from 2007? I rather thought Ms Barber was by far the best thing in it. Mind you, she was playing a vicious drunk with poor judgment.

Anonymous said...

Tweet, Tweet, you all are mad, just leave it alone!

Anonymous said...

Nalcolm, one moment of your time further. How do you think Sir Keeves now feels about his own craven capitulation? I should think he considers himself what I think the young people of today term a 'right pudenda'. If only the three delightful ladies you mention had told him his case was winnable instead of the lawyers he consulted.

SiGil said...

Some lawyers - I mention no names - are basically ambulance chasers. Some lawyers chase libel suits. No cost to the "litigants", big public profile for Themselves Personally Now. Some other actors - I mention no countries - might, for their own reasons, provide support for such actions.

This is what they're calling 'lawfare', and it's fkn nasty.

James said...

RR and TAO are nasty pieces of work and it speaks volumes of the media that they will bypass truth in order to portray them as victims instead of vicious posers who will happily bully teenage girls.

grim northerner said...

And you are a one trick pony.

Mick said...

I don't think Starmer tanked the case for fear of losing, more for fear of winning.

Anonymous said...

@anonymous @18:42

I believe you have accidentally cut and pasted your contribution from 25th July. https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/07/owen-jones-attack-not-accident.html

BTW I highly recommend clicking on the link Tim provided to the Guardian's 'article' on the announcement of the action. They include a response from a twitter user to Lewis’ request for his contact information which now seems highly prescient.

Anonymous said...


Keeves may well have wanted to avoid evidence already in the public domain becoming more widely disseminated but it was still a stupid decision. He may have thought capitulation would 'draw a line' under accusations of antisemitism but that is just yet one more instance of his bad judgment.

He knew the same complainants had launched an action re: data; he knew the EHRC report was coming; he knew the links between the EHRC and Tory donors would emerge; and he knew that the same parties had other actions pending. Hindsight is easy but he should also have considered whether those traduced over the last four years were going to just sit there. Speaking of which, I notice that Chris Williamson has now announced an action against the EHRC; one that he should win if the report repeats the calumnies levelled against him.

Finally, Keeves knew that the 'antisemitism scandal' has never been about antisemitism and the various parties whose interest have aligned to create it were never going to allow him to draw a line under the matter.

Although I don't think he's a bad man and I don't think his motives were malign, I do think his judgment has been extraordinarily poor. He has to rehabilitate the 'left' in the eyes of centrist voters and, to me, a much better first step would have been to establish the truth of what has been happening over the last four years. As it is, there now seems to me to be open warfare between the membership and the PLP where before it was between the leadership and elements of the PLP/party officials. Hence why I compared him to a lady's private parts.

Jonathan said...

These two minor thesis are awfully quiet now.

Would love to see Jeremy Corbyn sue these 2 lying, attention seeking narcissits and clean them out and extract grovelling apologies outside the High Court.
That would be great TV, better than anything these 2 minor thesis ever serve up.

Anonymous said...

@grim northerner

"you are a one trick pony"

Given that everyone's favourite cuckservative described this place as a "mad blog" and that fake anonymous keeps describing us as mad, could he be Harry Cole? Think about: he keeps on repeating himself because there's no one giving him dictation.


"These two minor thesis are awfully quiet now"

@MLewisLawyer tells us that "silence is making a very loud noise".

Anonymous said...

How odd.

Not a mention in corporate media.

Perhaps they just "missed" it.

But maybe not.

What say you, "liberal" Jon Snow?