It may seem a good question on the face of it, but in fact there was no reason for me to include any denials by Rachel Riley of the allegations against her.
To clarify: the background to my article, Serial abuser Rachel Riley to receive ‘extra protection’ – on grounds that she is receiving abuse, was that she had abused and harassed a 16-year-old girl with mental health problems – but that wasn’t the point of the piece.
In fact, I was saying that Riley was a hypocrite for claiming victimhood due to online abuse, after having been involved (at the very least) in events that included abuse of the teenager.
This did not prevent her counsel, John Stables, from claiming that the omission of her denial that she had abused the girl was “fatal” to my defence that I had published the piece in the public interest.
In cross-examination, I misunderstood what I was being asked and said that the non-inclusion of a denial was a “sin of omission, rather than intention”.
This is not correct. Riley’s protestations of innocence were a matter of public knowledge by the time I wrote my piece. She had published two Twitter threads to her audience of more than 600,000 followers, and had given TV interviews complaining about being abused despite not having done anything wrong.
So there was no obligation for me to reiterate something that was already known to more people than my own readership.
On the other hand, I didn’t seek a response from Riley on the hypocrisy question before publishing the article, because my opinion was that the public interest lay in putting out an alternative, opposing view to Riley’s claims, as soon as possible. I could not publish her denial of hypocrisy because she had never made one. I’m not certain she ever has.
From my amended defence: “It was the Defendant’s editorial judgement that the Claimant should not be approached for comment. Her position had been consistently stated… In particular, in her 14 tweet barrage at 4.45pm on 15 January 2019, the Claimant had vehemently denied bullying Rose whilst further attacking her.
“It was the Defendant’s judgement that firstly, the Claimant was highly unlikely to comment, and secondly, in the event that she did she would only take the opportunity to double down in her attacks on Rose.”
And this is from my witness statement: “I was aware Ms Riley had already given her side of the story in the Guardian Article, an article published on January 26, 2019 by The Times newspaper and in her Fourth Thread where she denies bullying Rose whilst attacking her further. I had also seen her interview with the journalist, Krishnan Guru-Murthy, broadcast by Channel 4 News on January 9, 2019, the podcast with Mr Guru-Murthy and interview on ITV’s Lorraine on January 10, 2019 where she repeated her claim that she was getting online abuse. I had also considered the wide ranging interaction between Rose and Ms Riley in which Ms Riley had expressed her position strongly and in detail.
“I also understand that Ms Riley is known to engage with young people (for example, in co-operation with charity, as Ms Riley is said to do), which is why I found her behaviour toward a 16-year-old child to be so abhorrent. I set out in this witness statement a long list of wrongdoing by Ms Riley, who presents herself to the public as a person of good moral character and a role-model for others, including young women. It was clearly in the public interest for me to bring her misdeeds to the public’s attention, especially when other members of the public were agreeing that Ms Riley was in the wrong… and to do so as soon as possible.
“I do not believe that, even had I approached Ms Riley for comment… she would have commented. I also did not want to encourage a further tirade of abuse to be hurled at Rose. Therefore, knowing that the adage that ‘a lie can circle the world before the truth has got its shoes on’ is a truism in the modern world of the internet, I knew that an article presenting a counter-view would need to appear as soon as possible so that its impact and relevance was not lost. I therefore published my article on the same day as the Guardian article.”
Also, of course, Riley had the right to reply. If she had wanted to correct falsehoods in my article or present her own point of view, I would have been happy to hear what she had to say. Instead, she “pressed the nuclear button”, as I put it in cross-examination during the trial, and launched court proceedings against me.
This tends to indicate – to me – that she didn’t have an answer to my allegations and instead hoped to silence me by embroiling me in lengthy and expensive litigation that I would not be able to afford.
These are the arguments the judge must weigh in considering this single aspect of the case alone.
And it is true that funding remains a pressing issue. Despite the trial having happened, there remain around £2,000 worth of legal fees outstanding – which is the reason I have a CrowdJustice campaign.
If you think my arguments are persuasive, please contribute:
Make a donation via the CrowdJustice page. Keep donating regularly until you see the total pass the amount I need.
Email your friends, asking them to pledge to the CrowdJustice site.
Post a link to Facebook, asking readers to pledge.
On Twitter, tweet in support, quoting the address of the appeal.
Use other social media in the same way.
And don’t forget that if you’re having trouble, or simply don’t like donating via CrowdJustice, you can always donate direct to me via the Vox Political PayPal button at the bottom of this article, where it appears on that website. But please remember to include a message telling me it’s for the crowdfund!
Next time, I’ll discuss some of the evidence I put forward to support my reasonable belief that Rachel Riley abused and harassed a teenage girl online, and that this behaviour encouraged others to do the same.
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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