It is hard to believe that it’s nearly a year since I received my first letter from Rachel Riley’s legal team, threatening me with a court trial for libel because I pointed out her hypocrisy.
Ms Riley had complained that Channel 4 had to hire a bodyguard after her behaviour on Twitter prompted some people to make physical threats against her.
I knew that her activities on that platform had also prompted her supporters to intimidate a teenage girl with mental health problems, causing her to fear for her life – and she didn’t have the cash for a bodyguard.
Her lawyers demanded that I should apologise for my article, retracting the claims made in it – even though they were based on evidence that remains available for anybody to see, on Twitter, to this day.
They wanted me to pay money to her in compensation for “distress” and “damage” to her reputation caused by me reporting these facts.
And they wanted me to pay their legal costs.
I’ve said all along that I think they – and she – adopted this attitude because they thought they could bully me.
Libel cases are extremely expensive – and I have discovered that it is possible to inflate the cost with pointless attempts to complicate or extend matters – and it seems they thought a relatively penniless web-based journalist would not be able to afford to fight, in court, against a millionaire celebrity.
In effect, they thought they could buy a judgement against me.
That offended my sense of justice – and still does.
So I set up a CrowdJustice page to fund myself, and found a solicitor. We contacted Ms Riley’s team to start discussions, thinking that they would at least attempt to support a form of “alternative dispute resolution” – negotiation – before going to court.
Instead, we were informed that they had launched court proceedings.
And what has happened with those proceedings?
The case has enjoyed two court hearings. At the first, Ms Riley’s team tried to argue that there was no need for a hearing to decide the meaning of the words they claimed were libellous, and whether they were assertions of fact or opinion. The judge ruled against them, ordering that the hearing should go ahead.
At the second, the judge agreed with me that my article was primarily an expression of opinion, leaving Ms Riley’s team only the possibility of arguing about the factual basis for my opinions.
They have lost ground every time. But still they insist on continuing with the case, still they refuse to simply sit down and talk about it, and still they continue to rack up the cost.
I think they know that their threat to take me to court has backfired and that, if the case is heard in public, the facts revealed in such a hearing could be disastrous for Ms Riley.
So I think they are trying to exhaust my resources by dragging out the process so that my supporters despair of ever seeing a result, and give up.
Please don’t give up.
This is a long process. Ms Riley’s legal team reckon the trial could now take six days (although I have yet to see their reasoning for such a claim) – and the High Court isn’t listing six-day trials until April 2021.
There are multiple preliminary stages to pass before it happens. The case against me could collapse at any one of those stages – if I have the funding to stand firm.
Or my defence could collapse if I can’t pay for it.
That’s why I must continue to appeal for you to:
Please consider making a donation yourself, via the CrowdJustice page.
Email five of your friends, asking them to pledge to the CrowdJustice site.
Post a link to Facebook, asking your friends to pledge.
On Twitter, you could tweet in support, quoting the address of the appeal.
On other social media platforms, please mention the campaign there, quoting the appeal address.
With your help, I’ve already achieved far more than I had reason to hope.
Let’s see it through to a successful end.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
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