Trade Union Lawyers Have Previous For Empty Threats

As Guido reported yesterday, Bob Crow has sent a laughable legal threat to the Boris campaign. He used the trade union ambulance chasers Thompsons to sabre rattle, but if their past form is anything to go by, the Mayor shouldn’t be too worried. Last year the Director of the Taxpayers Alliance skewered Unison’s Dave Prentis live on the Daily Politics:

A few months later Thompson’s weighed in:

From: Tom Jones (Thompsons Solicitors) 
Sent: 26 November 2011 11:23
To: Taxpayers Alliance
Subject: Dave Prentis and UNISON

Dear Sirs,

We act for Dave Prentis General Secretary of UNISON. You currently have a clip on your website which shows Dave Prentis apparently on The Daily Politics Show on 26 March (no year is given). You have manipulated the image to show his nose growing longer when he says his salary is ‘nowhere near’ £127,000.

Your depiction of our client treats him and the union with contempt. The clip does not show the whole discussion and takes our client’s comment out of context. The manipulation of his image is defamatory and subjects him to mockery. You fail to make clear that the figure you quote is gross and includes, for example, national insurance contributions and as such it is misleading.

Please confirm if you have authority from the BBC to use the clip. If you do not then your use of the BBC footage is an infringement of their copyright. The infringement is further compounded by what we assume is unauthorised manipulation. Youtube is also infringing copyright by showing the clip.

My client accepts that in his role he is likely to be the subject of media interest but it is not acceptable that he is subject to vindictive and personal attack. Please confirm that you will immediately take the clip down from your site and from Youtube.

Yours faithfully
TPR Jones
For Thompsons Solicitors

From: Matthew Sinclair
Sent: 29 November 2011 13:24
To: Tom Jones (Thompsons Solicitors) 
Subject: RE: Dave Prentis and UNISON

Mr. Jones,

Thank you for your email regarding the video clip on our website of Dave Prentis on the Daily Politics Show. The clip – which YouTube shows was released on 26 March 2010 – is scrupulous in its presentation of the facts.

It shows the actual page in the Annual Report of the Certification Officer that was the basis of our claim about your client’s total remuneration, which is in turn based on returns from the unions themselves, and is absolutely explicit that the £127,436 figure is composed of ‘salary’ and ‘benefits’. As such, it seems to us that any potentially defamatory allegation (you fail to identify what that would be) is based upon truth (at the very least, substantially), and is not misleading.

The comments are not taken out of context. The entire discussion of his remuneration is included. The degree to which it may harm the reputation of your client, whether that be exposure to hatred, ridicule or contempt, is no more than that to be legitimately expected by someone who, in the public eye, is misleading the public over the matter of their remuneration, where that information is of public interest.

We sent the clip to BBC journalists at the time, feeling they would be interested in how we followed up after their programme. The use of a short clip to produce a satire, and expose a public figure to legitimate scrutiny, is not likely to be upheld as an infringement of their copyright. To the extent that it even might be though, we will await hearing from the Corporation’s lawyers. Copyright does not exist as a vehicle for public figures prominent in ongoing public discourse over matters of public concern to suppress legitimate criticism and scrutiny of their positions.

A well paid trade union official leading strikes that will disrupt the lives of millions of people should be subject to proper scrutiny. Your client enjoys no legal protection against mockery. Our clip does not constitute an invasion of privacy, harassment, an appropriation of commercial personality rights, or any similar such interference with his rights.

Similarly, UNISON has no right to reputation defensible under English defamation law, even if any such reputation were somehow impacted by the clip.

Your client is welcome to laugh it off or to rebut our claims if he can.

Best,
Matthew Sinclair

Matthew Sinclair, Director
The TaxPayers’ Alliance

And that was the end of that.




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