Puddick Precedent Will Be Important

Guido has been awaiting the trial of Ian Puddick with avid interest. Puddick set up a series of websites to vent his anger over his wife’s 10-year affair with her boss, Timothy Haynes. On the first day of the case there has been no suggestion that anything posted online by Ian Puddick is untrue, simply that the widespread and repeated dissemination amounts to harassment. He was raided by the City of London Police on dubious grounds. This is as Mr Puddick himself says “a very interesting case”.

Tory MP Nadine Dorries is hounded online to a degree that is amazing for a backbench MP, even for one as admittedly colourful as Nadine, her persecution is extraordinary. Every thing she says, writes or tweets is deconstructed. Any slip of the tongue is a lie, any poorly phrased blog post is used in evidence against her. She is an outspoken woman with strong views, a socially conservative opponent of abortion. In some circles this is a thought-crime.

Her forays into blogging and tweeting have brought her nothing but grief, Guido advised her some years ago to quit the online limelight. There is little she can do about what people write about her online if it is not defamatory or a provable lie. Opinion is hard to action.

Lawyers believe the Puddick case could help define the limits of free expression online, the prosecution claims the plumber’s actions were harassment such that they forced the adulterous director to leave his position due to stress. In Guido’s opinion unless the harassment takes the form of direct communication – email, telephone, faxes, letters, tweets – it should not be actionable. If this case sets a precedent that online publication can be harassment won’t it have a chilling effect on free expression? For years this blog wrote almost daily negative stories about Gordon Brown, we know that this stressed him greatly. Should Brown be allowed to sue Guido for harassment? Should Nadine be allowed to sue her enemies for harassing her online?




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Quote of the Day

David Cowling, the BBC’s head of political research, in an internal memo…

“It seems to me that the London bubble has to burst if there is to be any prospect of addressing the issues that have brought us to our current situation. There are many millions of people in the UK who do not enthuse about diversity and do not embrace metropolitan values yet do not consider themselves lesser human beings for all that. Until their values and opinions are acknowledged and respected, rather than ignored and despised, our present discord will persist. Because these discontents run very wide and very deep and the metropolitan political class, confronted by them, seems completely bewildered and at a loss about how to respond (“who are these ghastly people and where do they come from?” doesn’t really hack it). The 2016 EU referendum has witnessed the cashing in of some very bitter bankable grudges but I believe that, throughout this 2016 campaign, Europe has been the shadow not the substance.”

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