Lawyers for the Labour Party have been sent away to think again after entirely failing to understand the allegations against them in a court battle – against me.
That’s right, This Writer has challenged the Labour Party over its decision to expel me from membership on charges relating to anti-Semitism, using a compromised disciplinary procedure that, I am alleging, breaches the terms of the party’s contract with its members.
My contention is that the party breached our contract by failing to follow its own disciplinary rules in investigating a complaint against me, by charging me with breaking a rule that did not exist at the time the complaint was made (let alone when I wrote the articles to which it related), and with two data protection breaches: passing information about me – including false information – to third parties and failing to honour a subject access request.
As I was making a money claim, I had to attach a value to the allegation. So I pointed out that my party membership had been suspended – and I had been denied permission to take part in any party activities – from the moment the disciplinary process against me was activated. As that process had been prejudiced against me, the outcome was wrong and I should not have been expelled. Therefore my party subscriptions for that period should be returned to me.
And I requested a declaration by the court that Labour had been wrong to expel me.
The party’s lawyers had failed to realise that a data protection breach can also constitute a breach of contract and had tried to say the part of my charge relating to them had not been properly made out. The judge disagreed.
To my joy, he explained that he had read the claim against Labour in exactly the way I had intended – and that it was Labour’s mistake to see it otherwise.
I think I’m right in saying we all agreed, though, that the online submission form run by HM Courts and Tribunals Service was not clear in its instructions and had failed to provide me with the information I needed, in order to provide the court – and the defendant – with the necessary information in the form it expected.
Labour had expected a charge, followed by itemised particulars, but the online form had not requested that – it had called for me to write the reasons for my claim, which I did in narrative form.
(I had expected to be contacted again with instructions on how to provide a properly made-out charge sheet, but this had not happened, hence the confusion).
The judge kindly decided that this was not the fault of either myself or the defendant.
But he said it would be unfair to try the case there and then – not only because Labour had not properly grasped the issues but because there was only an hour’s time left to do so, and there was far too much evidence to consider.
So he adjourned the case, to allow me to prepare a charge sheet, with particulars, and for Labour to draft a new response, and possibly to gather evidence and witness statements.
He also pointed out that this case has implications that go far beyond a small money claim.
If the court finds against the Labour Party, it can only harm that organisation’s reputation.
And think what may happen if the court declares that the party wrongly expelled a member charged with offences relating to anti-Semitism!
On hearing this, the party’s advocate asked for the case to be transferred to the next level of civil court proceedings – the ‘fast track’, in which the costs to the parties are much higher. The judge told me I would have to pay £7,000-£10,000 over the course of only a few months.
But he had already offered us the opportunity to change track and we had both turned it down (Labour in the knowledge of what a finding against it would mean), so he ruled against Labour’s request. He said the reputational damage to Labour would arise from a finding against it, not from the remedy.
The judge also expressed surprise that no members of the press were present at the hearing in Bristol Civil Justice Centre yesterday.
Well, I’ll give them ample warning before the next hearing.
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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