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Thursday 30 July 2020

Libel Claims - So It IS About The Money

Twenty hours on, and still there is no sign of their legal setback on the Twitter feeds of Countdown numbers person Rachel Riley and her pal, minor thesp Tracy Ann Oberman, although a statement has been offered by their lawyer Mark Lewis. They attempted to sue barrister Jane Heybroek over a Retweet, were then unable to pony up any evidence of reputational damage, and ended up paying some of Ms Heybroek’s costs.
That last is most unusual in a defamation action. What is also unusual is the tardiness of our free and fearless press in reporting the matter. Mail Online, which had been so quick in reporting the earlier “meanings” hearing, to assert that Ms Riley and Ms Oberman had “won” that one, took another four hours to put out a report.

But now that Mail Online, the Guardian (see HERE), and others have reported the collapse of the much-vaunted action, two things have been made crystal clear. Here’s the first, courtesy of the Guardian: “In 2019 Heybroek had retweeted a link to a lengthy blog post by a man called Shaun Lawson entitled ‘Beneath Contempt: How Tracy-Ann Oberman and Rachel Riley harassed, dogpiled and slandered a 16-year-old child and her father’. The article made allegations about the actions of Oberman and Riley towards a young Labour activist who had made comments about antisemitism in the party”.
Although no mention is made of the fact that Shaun Lawson is Jewish (just a little relevant when Ms Riley and Ms Oberman have made their names synonymous with acting against allegations of anti-Semitism), the effect will be to promote, to amplify, Lawson’s comments. That may not be what the pair had in mind when they set out along this particular road.

The second and rather more important clarification comes as a result of Lewis’ statement, which may not be on his Twitter feed, or indeed the website of Patron Law, where he is a partner, but has been given out to the press and reported extensively.
Here’s what he said: “Tracy Ann Oberman and Rachel Riley chose not to proceed further after the Judge had determined that the opinion expressed was capable of being defamatory, in circumstances where Jayne Heybroek claimed that she had promptly deleted her retweet … Their libel insurers did not see any advantage in pursuing a case over the liability of a retweet that was deleted so quickly and therefore the insurer paid a very modest sum”. Continuing the case would mean spending their own money.

Do go on. “Regrettably the defamatory tweeter lives in South America and has no visible assets. There are bigger fish to fry, in the pursuit of those who choose to maintain a serious libel”. No Mark. Just no. That should read “the blogpost author who you claim has defamed your clients”. Now compare with what 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”. But they won’t go after someone they can’t extract money from. Also, Ms Riley has not helped matters with a Tweet tellingIf anyone comes across any actionable libel about me, my lawyer [Mark Lewis] and I would be most interested. A lot of charities I support could use a few quid and I have no qualms generating it through compensation”. Not about money? It sodding well IS about money.

As in extracting it from others, but not spending it themselves. I’ll just leave that one there.
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Anonymous said...

I wonder, following the extensive press coverage (better late than never) how many people have searched Google for the blogpost now who would otherwise not have heard of @ShaunLawson and his Medium blog ‘Beneath Contempt: How Tracy-Ann Oberman and Rachel Riley harassed, dogpiled and slandered a 16-year-old child and her father’? And then made up their own minds, given all that is detailed there, including many screenshots of tweets?

It seemed very likely Jane Heybroek was going to win the case, following the 'meanings' hearing verdict. Had she not been able to pursue this and initially pay from her savings then Crowdfund her large legal fees, she would have had to admit 'guilt' even though she did not consider herself guilty, the Lawson blog she retweeted (as did many others who have NOT been sued) has not been found to be libellous in a court of law, and settle. Presumably a large sum plus Lewis's legal fees? Something very wrong here. Her professional reputation would have been traduced, and no doubt she would have been vilified on Twitter and in the press. Why single her out? Was it because as a barrister they thought she was wealthy? And as a barrister (immigration) she could well have lost her job? And of course her home.

Mike Sivier @MidWalesMike is still embroiled in a court case with Riley (and Lewis) over his posts on a similar theme. He too is Crowdfunding for his defence.

Without the libel cases, these blogs would have been quietly forgotten. Now the entire episode has again been amplified. Not really what I'm sure Riley and Oberman wanted. And not a win for Lewis either, no matter how much 'damage limitation' he tries.

Read 'Dark Money' by Jane Mayer said...


Anonymous said...

Imagine Lewis, Riley and Oberman grinding their teeth over this while wiping egg from their faces.

Then roll about laughing.

Anonymous said...

One commentator on the Mail article says "More in this than is in this very blank report". I agree; Mr Lewis tells us that "Their libel insurers did not see any advantage in pursuing a case over the liability of a retweet that was deleted so quickly". Why not? Were they not persuaded of the merits of the case? Why then was the case brought in the first place?

Anonymous said...

You know the other time someone jumped the gun and declared victory in an action? https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/04/rachel-riley-judgment-who-jumped-gun.html. The judge is really funny. Here's Mr Justice Nicklin throwing out "the Claimant's Meaning":

'Given my findings in relation to the natural and ordinary meaning of the Tweet, the innuendo meaning adds nothing, even if the supporting facts could be established. All that the Claimant has relied upon by way of evidence is a collection of printouts from various websites including from Twitter. ... I will not spend time trying to decipher the "evidence" that the Claimant has relied upon. I doubt that it provides any real evidence, or any evidence of any value. If there exists a category of reader who – submerged in the lexicon of Twitter – understands the word "engage" in some sort of Twitter-specific way, the meaning that s/he would understand is not materially different from the natural and ordinary meaning of the word as it appeared in the Tweet.' https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/QB/2020/977.html

Anyone got any gravy for that roast?

Anonymous said...

@make up a stupid username 11:33


Anonymous said...

@anonymous who isn't me

"And then made up their own minds, given all that is detailed there"

I don't think it really matters. I suspect that many people will just shrug, think that both sides are as bad as each other, and deny the facts staring them in the fucking face! Just as they did when the Electoral Commission delivered its judgment in the matter of the 2016 EU referendum. Just as when FactCheck found 88 per cent of official Tory online ads were lies and 100 per cent of Labour online ads weree truthful. And just as I am told we need to care about benefit fraud (2.3bn) but not the tax gap (33bn).

I think the real story here, and one missed by the reporters but not Tim, is how the threat of the application of a Norwich Pharmacal order could be used to silence prospective critics despite the fact that judges have rejected fishing expeditions. Smith v ADVFN PLC and Arab Satellite Communications Organisation v Saad Faqih & Anr make fascinating reading as to the actual attitude judges have to applications. The short story is: they don't like them very much. https://www.pinsentmasons.com/out-law/news/bulletin-board-postings-more-likely-slander-than-libel-says-high-court

I strongly recommend reading Smith v ADVFN PLC as Mr Justice Eady is hilarious. Here's a sample "Mr Smith would no doubt argue that there is a fundamental difference between seeking genuinely to vindicate yourself and, on the other hand, 'demanding money with threats'. That is of course true, but sometimes the distinction becomes difficult to detect." Here's another fave: "On 27 April 2007 Mr Byrne posted the comment that ' … it would appear that a poster called anonamous has sued several people for calling him names. He seems like a right cunt'. No defamatory meaning is attached to this and Mr Byrne denies that it is defamatory. He argues that it is 'the vulgar abuse that can regularly be encountered on the ADVFN bulletin board'. One has to ask whether this is the sort of material that should find its way for resolution into the High Court."

Read 'Dark Money' by Jane Mayer said...

If you read 'Dark Money' by Jane Mayer, you'll note that rich right-wing people openly donate money to legal right-wing political parties and rich right-wing people pass funds using 'dark money' to illegal right-wing groups.
The illegal right-wing groups threaten and attack minority groups which include Jewish people.
The rise in hate for minority groups has increased in line with the rise of right-wing politicians winning elections.

Sam said...

Anon at 11.30. Seems to me this trio may just not be terribly bright. I'm still completely puzzled how Rachel decided that a Northern Working Man's band playing Hava Nagila to the presumable delight of onlookers, could be in any manner deemed antisemitic. One of the most puzzling tweets of all time.
I wonder if the poor lass finds non-Jews who perform items composed by great Jewish composers like Gershwin or Cole Porter or those who sing songs from Lionel Bart's Oliver are antisemitic ?. Must make for a hard life.
# said it before- Tracy Ann has a beautiful voice.

Newport News said...

I don't know if they realise it, but politicians who are 'Friends of Israel' are doing what anti-Semites want if they recommend to Jewish people that they emigrate to Israel.

Anonymous said...

Do you know everyone down the local is talking about everything except this case, "Twatter? wotz that whenitsathome?".

Anonymous said...

I see @ShaunLawson has taken it upon himself, now that he's been deemed by Mark Lewis to be small fry, to retweet his blogs about Oberman and Riley this afternoon. A number of people have retweeted his tweets with the links.

Will Lewis consider them small fry too, or be licking his lips at the thought of a big catch?

I do know who they consider bigger fish, and who they have been very recently pursuing in the courts. Another barrister. So many claims of hurty feelings, and so much money to be made from the hurty claims it seems. Precious people being precious? Or just avaricious?

Anonymous said...


"Must make for a hard life"

Too right. It now means half my record collection is antisemitic. Versions of Gershwin or Porter songs make up some of my favourite recordings by Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk, Cecil Taylor, Ornette Coleman, Niles Davis, John Coltrane and on and on. Not to mention Booker Ervin's frankly astonishing version of 'Bei Mir Bist du Schoen'.

Anonymous said...

@Read 'Water is wet' by stating the obvious 14:13

Which has precisely what to do with the debate over the way accusations of antisemitism were weaponised in order to destroy the left?

And what is the connection to the link you provided? Are you suggesting some sort of karmic justice?

Anonymous said...

Ken, of course, got into trouble for making a similar argument. Israeli critics of Netanyahu think it's a deliberate strategy; albeit, an utterly vile one:

'Opposition MP Yair Lapid, head of the centrist Yesh Atid and a potential rival to the Israeli prime minister, labelled Mr Orbán’s visit a “disgrace”. “Today Netanyahu will give honour to Prime Minister Orbán of Hungary, who praised the antisemitic ruler [Horthy] who collaborated with the Nazis in the extermination of Hungarian Jewry. A disgrace!” he wrote on Twitter.' https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/netanyahu-orb-n-israel-welcome-hungary-prime-minister-antisemitism-a8454866.html

'“It’s unforgivable. Netanyahu is giving them a green light,” said Efraim Zuroff, the chief Nazi-hunter of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. “It’s like praising the Ku Klux Klan for improving racial relations in the South.”' https://www.timesofisrael.com/netanyahu-scorned-for-wooing-holocaust-distorting-allies/

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous who isn't me

"A number of people have retweeted his tweets with the links" - Is it antisemitic to call this The Streisand Effect?

"Another barrister" - Who could you possibly mean?

"So many claims of hurty feelings, and so much money to be made from the hurty claims it seems. Precious people being precious? Or just avaricious?" - Is the correct answer: none of the above; but a more subtle purpose, one which the barrister's predecessor has referred to

Anonymous said...

Jane's twitter has some interesting reflections on the accuracy of the reporting of the case. She just says "Nope" when asked if Waterson contacted her for comment before his piece was published in The Guardian. At least the Mail allowed comments. https://www.theguardian.com/media/2020/jul/15/guardian-announces-plans-to-cut-180-jobs