High Court Grants Permission for Banks to Appeal Cadwalladr Verdict

The High Court has given Arron Banks permission to proceed with an appeal against his libel claim loss to Carole Cadwalladr. Banks appealed the verdict on five counts, with Justice Steyn today granting appeal permission on one count she claimed has a “real prospect of success” – on whether the threshold for “serious harm” inflicted by Cadwalladr’s TED talk needed to be reassessed since Banks had previously proved it.

Banks’ QC said:

“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.”

Justice Steyn herself added: “I am going to grant permission. It does raise clearly an issue of law that has not been determined previously. There is a real prospect of success on that ground”…

mdi-timer 24 June 2022 @ 15:01 24 Jun 2022 @ 15:01 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
Jolyon’s Good Law Project Sits on Millions While Refusing Refunds to Backers

Co-conspirators are well aware with the business model of the Good Law Project, which gets their loyal, wealthy and deluded supporters to stump up hundreds of thousands for no-hope cases, only to refuse refunds when they lose or judges throw the case out. Last month their 2021-22 annual report painted a picture of financial jeopardy, warning their “legal defence fund” will run out if their spate of losses continues:

“In summary, we have estimated potential net liabilities of £3.2 million across our litigation portfolio against our Legal Defence Fund of £2.0 million.”

Last week, however, the GLP submitted their accounts to Companies House, spelling out quite a different fiscal picture. For the year ending 31 January 2022*, the project was sat on nearly £5.5 million of cash reserves, with net assets of over £4 million. Up almost three times 2021’s £1.43 million figure:

If the Good Law Project is genuinely concerned about quality governance, rather than just acting as a cash cow, perhaps they should put their own ample money where their mouth is next time they launch legal action against the government…

*To be fair to Jolyon, he has endured a substantial number of losses since this date.

mdi-timer 17 June 2022 @ 11:20 17 Jun 2022 @ 11:20 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
Banks Case Judge’s Very Own Anti-Brexit Twitter Echo Chamber Shows “Apparent Bias”

Our research shows that Mrs Justice Steyn herself inhabits an anti-Brexit echo chamber like the one she controversially ruled to be of no importance when it came to Arron Banks’ reputation. We have found her private Twitter account, the one that signalled her support for her anti-Brexit campaigner husband’s political ambitions. It followed 27 tweeters, two BBC journalists – who, for the purposes of this research, we will consider to be impartial – one anonymous account, and 24 well-known, high-profile remainers. That, to Guido’s mind, constitutes her own self-selected, anti-Brexit echo chamber.

She followed the likes of Faisal Islam, Eddie Izzard, Nick Cohen, Alan Rusbridger, Jon Snow, David Miliband, Robert Peston, David Allen Green, Gary Lineker and Rupert Myers – hard-line remainers all. The fact is that Karen Steyn does not follow a single Brexiteer, all her timeline and the information coming to her on Twitter is from anti-Brexit sources. That is the definition of an echo chamber.

This is important because it is a judicial principle that “apparent bias” arises when, even if the judge does not have an interest in its outcome, there is something in the judge’s conduct or behaviour, their interests, affiliations or their allegiances, that gives rise to a suspicion that they have not decided the case in an impartial manner.

The most famed example in recent years is R v Bow Street Metropolitan Stipendiary Magistrate, ex parte Pinochet Ugarte (No. 2) [2000] 1 AC 119, which involved the unprecedented decision by the House of Lords to set aside its own previous judgment based on just the mere possibility of bias.

In that case, Lord Hoffman, who had formed part of the 3-2 majority in the House of Lords trial which decided the former Chilean President had no immunity from arrest, had failed to declare his links to Amnesty International, which had intervened in the appeal. Not only was he an unpaid director of the charitable arm of Amnesty International but his wife had been an administrative assistant to Amnesty International’s London office for 21 years. When this emerged his fellow Law Lords held that: ‘The fact that a person has the necessary training and qualifications to resist any tendency towards bias is not relevant when considering whether there was an appearance of bias.’

In Magill v Porter[2001] UKHL 67, the House of Lords adopted the test of ‘what the fair-minded and informed observer would have thought, and whether his conclusion would have been that there was real possibility of bias.’ This is an objective test. When applying the test: ‘It will very often be appropriate to enquire whether the judge knew of the matter relied on as appearing to undermine his impartiality, because if it is shown that he did not know of it the danger of its having influenced his judgment is eliminated and the appearance of possible bias is dispelled.’

It is open to the claimant, Arron Banks, to draw this information to the attention of the Lord Chancellor when asking for the case to be set aside and reheard. The judge should, according to the Bar Standards Council rules, have recused herself because of her husband’s relevant political views and campaigning, which could arguably have prejudiced her views. The evidence of her Twitter account shows she was supportive of his efforts and she herself, on the basis of the people she follows, inhabits an anti-Brexit Twitter echo chamber…

Read her follows list, and their anti-Brexit sentiments in full, below:

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mdi-timer 15 June 2022 @ 17:00 15 Jun 2022 @ 17:00 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
REVEALED: Brexit-Hating, LibDem Husband of Controversial Cadwalladr Decision Judge

Yesterday’s Cadwalladr ruling was confusing at best. While Mrs Justice Steyn ruled the TED Talk Carole Cadwalladr gave was defamatory, she said Banks had failed to prove that its publication caused “serious harm to reputation”. Part of this was based on a belief that Carole’s followers are mainly an #FBPE echo chamber, therefore unlikely to have had their minds changed by the defamatory Russia claim…

It’s since been pointed out to Guido that the husband of Mrs Justice Steyn, Alex Glassbrook, is none other than a Brexit-hating former LibDem candidate who is not unfamiliar with that Twitter echo chamber. Glassbrook stood for the LibDems as their Tooting by-election candidate in 2016, and at the 2017 General Election, where his leaflets said he “was dismayed when our country voted to leave the European Union.”

Justice Steyn, first name Karen, was loyaly supportive of her husband’s electoral efforts. Her Twitter account shows her delighting in the LibDems’ potential at the 2017 election, and retweeting a photo of her husband at a husting where he “brilliantly [represented] #LibDems”

Guido has no intention of impugning the integrity of the judge in this case – just observing that it would have been very fraught over last night’s dinner table had she ruled in favour of the “Hard Brexit” backer her husband pledged to fight…

mdi-timer 14 June 2022 @ 15:43 14 Jun 2022 @ 15:43 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
Judge Rules Cadwalladr Claims of Russian Backing for Banks Were Defamatory, Awards No Damages

Mrs Justice Steyn has ruled that a TED Talk given by Carole Cadwalladr was defamatory, though Banks failed to prove that “the publication of the TED Talk from 29 April 2020 caused and/or is likely to cause serious harm to his reputation.” He was as a consequence awarded no damages.

The judgement ruled that “there was a significant change of circumstances once … the National Crime Agency” investigation cleared Banks and her public interest defence ceased to apply after that finding. Banks was sanguine, publicly tweeting “Congratulations to Carole on winning today, it leaves open for the journalist the excuse that she thought what she said was correct even though she had no facts. There are important points of law at stake here and we will likely appeal.” For Banks it was never really about money and winning damages – she would have been bankrupted, if she had to pay anyway. It was about clearing his name in court once and for all.

The Judge also dismissed Cadwalladr’s bluster from when she was trying to frame the case as a “freedom of the press” issue, that this was a SLAPP suit:

9. Ms Cadwalladr has repeatedly labelled this claim a SLAPP suit, that is a strategic lawsuit against public participation, designed to silence and intimidate her. Although, for the reasons I have given, Mr Banks’s claim has failed, his attempt to seek vindication through these proceedings was, in my judgment, legitimate. In circumstances where Ms Cadwalladr has no defence of truth, and her defence of public interest has succeeded only in part, it is neither fair nor apt to describe this as a SLAPP suit.

That was always nonsense.

Crucially Justice Steyn ruled

“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…

Full judgement Banks v Cadwalladr.
UPDATE: Banks has released a statement on the result:

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mdi-timer 13 June 2022 @ 10:37 13 Jun 2022 @ 10:37 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
Jolyon’s “Legal Defence Fund” Will Run Out if Losses Continue

Jolyon has published the Good Law Project’s (GLP) long-awaited annual report for 2021-22. The good news for Jolyon is he’s raked in a record number of donations, with “at least 61,445 people” throwing their money down the drain in the past year. The bad news is if the GLP lose all their impending cases at their usual rate, they’ll have to break into their emergency war chest:

“In summary, we have estimated potential net liabilities of £3.2 million across our litigation portfolio against our Legal Defence Fund of £2.0 million. However, we do not expect to fight and lose all these cases in our portfolio and, as they are ongoing, we expect to be able to fundraise further as the litigation progresses.”

They ended the year with £2.1 million in general reserves, which they claim is used “to provide working capital and allow us to seize opportunities and weather operational setbacks“. The £2 million they’ve earmarked for legal fights won’t cover the potential total cost of their losses, so Jolyon will have to raid his war chest if things continue to go south. Jolyon’s track record of losing 81% of his cases may not assure donors that the GLP is in good shape, and there’s nothing to worry about. Still, as he points out, he’s relying on more patrons parting with their money…

mdi-timer 27 May 2022 @ 15:45 27 May 2022 @ 15:45 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
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