The High Court gave Arron Banks permission to proceed with an appeal against the strange libel claim ruling given to Carole Cadwalladr. The appeal hearing will be this coming Tuesday and will focus on whether the threshold for “serious harm” inflicted by Cadwalladr’s TED talk needed to be reassessed since Banks had previously proved it.
Banks’ KC is arguing:
“The claimant succeeded in discharging the burden of establishing that the publication complained of had caused and was likely to cause serious harm to his reputation. At that point, it was for the defendant to demonstrate that she had a defence to the original publication and/or its continuing publication.”
It was a very odd ruling; even though Banks won the claim that he was defamed, the judged ruled that it was of little consequence and awarded no damages. In her ruling she stated:
“it may reasonably be inferred that the vast majority of the defendant’s followers on Twitter “are likely to be persons within her own echo chamber” and “it’s probably right that they wouldn’t have thought very much of [the claimant] by that time”. In my judgment, those within the jurisdiction to whom the Tweet was published are likely to consist of people whose opinion of the claimant was of no consequence to him.
The claimant’s case on this issue is essentially dependent on drawing an inference of serious harm from the combination of the gravity of the imputation and the extent of publication. While I have been persuaded, on balance, to draw such an inference in relation to the TED Talk, in my judgment, the claimant has not established that the Tweet caused (or is likely to cause) serious harm to Mr Banks’s reputation.”
In other words, Carole Cadwalladr’s #FBPE echo chamber on Twitter constantly repeating deranged allegations does not constitute “serious harm”. “Defamatory tweets don’t matter” is an extraordinary ruling in an age where social media dominates public discourse.
After that ruling, Guido drew attention to some of the judge’s own tweets and her Brexit-hating, LibDem husband. This appeal will be legally interesting.