Less than a week before This Writer’s hearing in the Court of Appeal, I regret I cannot say whether it will be an “in person” hearing or one that may be viewed remotely on the internet. I don’t even know what time it is likely to start!
My legal team had believed the hearing would be “remote”, and received notification yesterday that this was the case. But it seems the same letter also stated that the court was minded to re-list the case – for the same day – as an “in-person” hearing instead.
There are good reasons for attending the hearing in person. It is easier for Counsel to properly judge and pitch submissions when one is in the same room as the judge. That is even more the case with the Court of Appeal where there are three judges. It is also easier to really engage judges in a debate in person.
However, the Court of Appeal has decided that the hearing should last no longer than two hours – despite Rachel Riley’s team having filed an 80-paragraph response to my appeal, despite having given only one paragraph to this aspect of the case in their strike-out application last December. It was the responsibility of Riley’s team to ask for more time but they have chosen not to do so. In these circumstances, it seems likely that, if the hearing is listed to start in the morning and “in person”, the judges may allow it to run on – and I am advised that this is more likely to benefit Riley than me. That does not strike me as being fair.
There are also difficulties relating to my own ability to attend. I don’t have a car at the moment – it failed its MOT a couple of weeks ago and has been in the garage, being repaired, ever since. This makes travel to London from Mid Wales extremely difficult – I would have to catch a train to Bristol and stay there overnight (at a time when staying with people outside of one’s ‘bubble’ is still forbidden) before catching a further train to London. This would also necessitate considerable unnecessary expense.
Then there are the issues relating to Covid-19, which haven’t gone away just because many of us have had a first dose of a vaccine. My concerns about carrying the virus back to my ill and disabled partner (I’m her carer, remember) remain valid – and also the court’s own social distancing rules mean it will be practically impossible to discuss the case with my legal team before the hearing. We would not be able to hold them in private, would have to sit a long way apart and would be wearing masks, meaning we would have to shout at each other to be heard – in a public place. That is not a good idea.
And while my solicitor would find it easier to pass on instructions to Counsel if they were both in the courtroom, his own travel expenses are likely to add more than £2,000 to my costs. Having just spent a month raising £20,000 at very short notice, we all agree that this is undesirable.
So I have suggested to the court that a “hybrid” hearing should take place, with Counsel present in court and the rest of us tuning in via the internet. This runs the risk of the court demanding that the hearing be either wholly remote or wholly in person, but it strikes me that I’ll be no worse-off for having suggested it. If it transpires that I can find no way to attend, at least my reasons will be clear.
And of course, Rachel Riley has never attended a single hearing in this case, so it should not be held against me.
I’m not begging for cash this time – this update is purely for information. The CrowdJustice campaign is likely to need more at some point, though, so if you are inclined to donate, the methods are the same as always:
Consider making a donation yourself, via the CrowdJustice page.
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.
I will provide further updates when the situation becomes clearer.
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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