He lost this one ...
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 ...
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
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.