The clock is ticking: Rachel Riley seems desperate to force a court hearing this month because she thinks Mike will run out of money. Only you can prove her wrong.
The High Court has suggested that an application by Rachel Riley to strike out part of my defence against her libel claim should be heard before the end of July – despite the fact that this will create a huge strain on my funds.
There is absolutely no urgency for this application to be heard and there is likely to be no shortage of urgent cases that could take priority over this one – and there is no date before the end of July on which both my solicitor and my Counsel will be available.
I understand Ms Riley’s solicitor, Mark Lewis, has written to the court with a suggestion that I want to delay in order to crowdfund the cash I need to fund my defence, saying he is concerned that this would establish a precedent that will clog up the administration of justice.
He has suggested that, besides being deprived of time to raise funds for my defence, I should also produce the extra cash that would be needed to obtain and instruct alternative Counsel.
We should all be concerned if this argument has swayed the court, because it is unjust.
Firstly, my reason for wanting to delay the hearing is that my Counsel is not available – not because I need to crowdfund. Courts are obliged to make efforts to accommodate Counsel, especially in a case in which the court would benefit from hearing from the Counsel who wrote my defence.
Secondly – yes, forcing me to change Counsel, to meet a July hearing date, will almost certainly put my defence fund in debt. Allowing the case to be heard later in the year will almost certainly not do so.
While the strain on my finances may not burden Mr Lewis, the court is required to deal with cases justly and at proportionate cost to ensure that the parties are on an equal footing. This means that the court must take account of the financial position of each party.
Let’s have a look at Ms Riley’s financial position in relation to mine: she is a very highly paid television celebrity who is able to afford both leading and junior counsel, while I am a full-time carer and am, yes, reliant on crowdfunding to finance my defence.
Speeding up this hearing deprives me of the ability to afford representation against a very well-resourced opponent. It is hard to see how the court can say this is just and proportionate treatment.
Finally, Ms Riley has put forward no reason to suggest that her case will be prejudiced if the hearing is not listed later; it will make no difference to her at all.
My own representatives have made these points to the court and we are awaiting a response.
But it seems clear that Ms Riley is once again trying to win her case by using my poverty against me. I think this is utterly despicable behaviour.
If your opinion of her behaviour is similar, then there’s only one way to help:
Consider making a donation yourself, if you can afford it, 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.
On other social media platforms, please mention the campaign there, quoting the appeal address.
I had been hoping to write an update this week, saying that the pressure was off for a while, then this happened.
Please help foil this latest dark development in a very nasty story.
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.
There is plenty of money in the UK but the Tories have decided to starve public services like the NHS to give tax breaks to the very rich.
This has led to chronic underfunding for services across the board, including health – which has also had to cope with the introduction of profit-making private companies into the system which drain out even more money.
They talk about funding increases but the amount they provide each year is barely a quarter of the average since the NHS was formed in 1948.
There can be only one conclusion: Whatever the Tories are planning for the NHS, it isn’t good for your health.
Hospitals are mothballing scores of wards, closing them to patients despite the NHS’s ongoing beds crisis, new figures reveal.
At the last count in September 82 “ghost wards” were recorded containing 1,429 empty beds, the equivalent of two entire hospitals, according to data provided by hospital trusts across England. It represents a sharp increase on the 32 wards and 502 beds that were unused four years earlier, statistics obtained under freedom of information laws show.
The closures, often a result of hospitals not having enough staff or the money to keep wards open, have occurred at a time when the health service is under unprecedented pressure and struggling to cope with demand for beds.
Staff in the A&E department of Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth hospital [Image: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images].
Does anybody seriously believe the National Health Service is ready for the winter onslaught on its services, while it continues to be run by Conservatives?
If so, think again. Already the news hacks are laying out the territory on which the service’s next battle for credibility will be fought.
The NHS is deep into planning for what many worry will be an even tougher winter than last year.
Improvements are being outweighed by a combination of increasing risks and NHS trusts are worried that they do not have enough staff, beds and other services to manage the risk to patient safety this winter.
They point to several factors: the relentless rises we are seeing in demand on A&E and other key services; growing staff shortages; and greater financial pressure, which means trusts are less able to afford the extra capacity they urgently need. The relentless rise in demand has also meant that some “escalation” beds – put in place as a winter contingency – are still in use even during the summer. Despite all the effort at local and national level, performance against the four-hour A&E standard is no better at this point than it was last year. The reality at the frontline is that winter never really went away.
But, perhaps most important of all, the government’s plan that the NHS would consistently benefit from the £1bn of extra support for social care – trying to get a double benefit from the same pot of money – has not worked.
Remember back in school, when you were taught that we have laws in place to ensure justice for everybody?
Isn’t it a shame you weren’t taught the facts?
It seems every clearer that laws are written by whoever is rich enough to buy the politicians who enact them – especially in a Conservative, or Conservative-led, government.
So – for example – if you are one of the elite super-rich who, between them, have an alleged £20+ trillion stowed in offshore tax haven bank accounts, you could happily bung a few thousand – or indeed a few hundred thousand – to the Tories to stop their Chancellor from increasing the powers of HM Revenue & Customs to track them down and make them pay their fair share.
That could explain the discrepancy between what Tory Chancellor George Osborne said in April and what he’s saying now.
Back in April, he told us he was consulting on a new criminal offence carrying a possible prison sentence that will ensnare people with undeclared foreign income – even if they did not intend to evade taxes.
Osborne said: “We are changing the balance of the law so the burden of proof falls on those who are hiding their money offshore and we don’t have to prove that they intended to do so.”
“It is totally unacceptable for people not to pay the tax that is due and the message will be clear now with this new criminal offence that if you’re evading tax offshore, there is no safe haven and we will find you.”
What is he saying about it now?
Instead, the plan to make offshore tax evasion a criminal offence has been quietly dropped from a draft Financial Bill that was published last week.
According to Citywire, Ray McCann, partner at Pinsent Masons, told the Financial Times: “I think that the proposal is now likely to quietly disappear. There is no substance to it [italics mine].”
Perhaps we should be checking for more substantial donations to the Conservative Party, between April and today’s date, instead.
Speaking before the event, Mr McGowan said a few words that were particularly illuminating. “Without a mandate, having concealed their health policy, this government is giving away NHS contracts to the highest bidder,” he said.
“Under the cloak of austerity, the primary purpose of this government is to move public money into private pockets, as fast as humanly possible. They are like pigs at the trough of public money.
“These people in government are liars, criminals and thieves and should be arrested for embezzlement of public funds. A staggering 206 parliamentarians have recent or present financial private healthcare connections; amazingly all of them were allowed to vote on the Health and Social Care Act.
“This is not a democracy.”
You’d have expected this expression of free speech to have received a huge amount of coverage in the free press, wouldn’t you? Well, think again because I just checked: An article in the Metro and a video on something called London24. That’s all.
Ah, but there’s always Facebook, where bloggers such as myself can freely direct readers such as yourselves to our work and highlight the subjects not covered in the so-called popular press, isn’t there?
Well, this was a story that Facebook was doing its damnedest to make sure didn’t get out.
Facebook then seemed to get a taste for censorship: The Pride’s Purge blog by Tom Pride received similar treatment after it posted links to an openly-satirical article (It was plainly marked ‘Satire’) about the Department for Work and Pensions and Atos.
Tom claimed in a later post that a JobCentre Plus worker “openly bragged” to him that JCP had complained to Facebook about him, and this had led to the censorship of his work.
Even this blog, which only posted links to other articles about these issues, was targeted for attack. As readers who link here from Facebook will know – you alerted me to it – we had a couple of days when visits here were accompanied by this stern warning: “Facebook thinks this site may be unsafe. If you’re not familiar with it, please provide feedback by marking it as spam (you’ll be brought back to Facebook).” As site statistics show, this was enough to put many readers off.
I wasn’t having it. I have written to Facebook, pointing out that the unfounded allegation is defamatory and demanding that reparations must be made – to charity, and to the Labour Party (of which I am a member), since this site is not for profit and the attacks seemed to be centred on left-leaning bloggers. They’ve got three weeks to respond, then I start adding noughts to the amount that I suggested.
Facebook has said the mass censorship was a mistake made by its automated systems – but you’d have to be gullible in the extreme to believe that.
So much for freedom of speech; so much for freedom of the press; so much for freedom on the Internet.
Yesterday it emerged that a man had been held in prison for two weeks after claims were made that he made a “threat to kill” during an Atos work capability assessment.
Steve Topley, a 49-year-old Hucknall father with multiple health conditions including Reynard’s syndrome, who has a heart replacement valve and lost one of his kidneys to cancer, and is on a strict medication regime including treatment to stabilise his blood levels and maintain safe blood pressure, was whisked away after he made comments about a person who was not present at the assessment.
He was arrested, subjected to a mental health assessment which offered no reason to detain him, so was re-arrested and taken to Nottingham police station where he was charged and kept in custody. He was refused bail twice in closed courts which, his family said, they were refused permission to attend.
Today (Friday) he was taken to another secret court, where he was charged, admitted the crime, and bailed – with the likelihood of a community sentence waiting for him at his next appearance.
Johnny Void, writing about this in his blog, made some particularly apposite comments on the subject, as follows: “This incident happened in the middle of an Atos assessment which are notoriously stressful and frightening for claimants. If he hadn’t been put through that, it is unlikely he would have said whatever he said, which it seems was not a very credible threat, at least as far as the Judge was concerned.
“It can make people react irrationally or angrily and they end up doing things they wouldn’t ordinarily do. The context these events take place in is often ignored by ‘professionals’, because to them it is all just a job and they can’t understand why people are not being reasonable. The stark terror felt by some people facing courts, benefit assessments, arrests, bailiffs, prisons or even more seemingly benign institutions such as social services, Jobcentres and community mental health teams can often cause people to destroy themselves. This can happen even if ‘professionals’ concerned do their jobs properly within the constrain of the system and no-one is really personally culpable.”
So much for personal freedom – but wait. The situation here is actually worse than even this story makes out. I am indebted to Vox Political commenter vince032013, who tells us the following, about so-called ‘reforms’ to Legal Aid (italics mine):
“Things might be about to get a lot worse. The government are now planning on reforming the criminal justice system. Highlights are 1. Suspects in the police station will not be able to choose a solicitor. They will be appointed one. 2. The number of solicitors’ firms is to be reduced by 75 per cent (that’s not a typo – 75 per cent). 3. The reduction in the number of solicitors is to be achieved by putting criminal work out to tender. 4. The bidders are not allowed to bid at over 82.5 per cent of the current cost of running a criminal case. 5. The consultation which has introduced this idea states in terms that it does not want solicitors to offer any more than an “acceptable” level of service to suspects. 6. Once charged, defendants may be represented in court by someone with no Crown Court trial experience (and will not be able to exercise a choice to change that representative). If you’re interested read the consultation here
In other words, this Conservative/Liberal Democrat government is determined to rig the justice system against anybody who becomes caught up in it. The conditions described by the commenter are utterly corrupt and offer nobody in this country any chance at justice – unless they can afford it. So the really serious criminals and gangsters have nothing at all to fear.
Today we also discovered that the so-called “big four” accountancy firms – Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers – who were brought into the Treasury to help the government draw up tax laws, have been using the ‘insider’ knowledge they have gained to help wealthy clients avoid paying taxes. They have been telling multinational corporations and wealthy individuals how to exploit loopholes in the legislation they have helped to write – according to the House of Commons’ public accounts committee.
This represents a staggering betrayal of the working- and middle-class citizens of this country, who have no choice but to pay all the tax that the government demands from them or face imprisonment – and an appalling display of hypocrisy on the part of David Cameron, the British Prime Minister who, only yesterday, said he planned to use the UK’s chairmanship of the G8 nations to tackle what he himself described as “staggering” worldwide levels of tax evasion and avoidance – levels that he, himself, is helping to boost.
Now, I’m not voting in the elections next week. There isn’t a poll in my part of the country. But if you are planning to vote…
Considering the way the government has pushed through its plans to sell the NHS to the highest bidders (without a mandate, having concealed its health policy); considering the way it has been implicated in attempts to stop the public from finding out about the plans and what they mean (in conjunction with Facebook); considering how its servants take it upon themselves to subject very-ill individuals to extreme pressure and then imprison them on the basis of what they say in those circumstances; considering the plan to deny justice to the poor and make high-quality legal advice available only to the extremely rich people, including rich criminals, who can afford it; and considering the fact that it has opened the door for those who should be paying the most tax in this country to avoid doing so altogether – while claiming it is doing the exact opposite…
Taking all those issues into consideration, if you are a working-class or middle-class person planning to vote Conservative or Liberal Democrat next Thursday, then for your own safety, submit yourself for medical assessment because you must be barking mad.
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