(not satire – it’s UK libel law)
Apparently something rather odd is afoot in the Lord McAlpine libel suit currently being heard against Sally Bercow in the High Court.
I have no legal background or grounding in law myself, but I’m told by those who have that it looks as though legal precedent is either being overlooked or is being strangely ignored.
According to case law, a previous judgement in Smith V ADVFN (another internet libel case involving multiple defendants) shows clearly that if the guidance in the case is followed, Lord McAlpine’s action should be doomed.
Put simply as possible, the judgement says that compensation in libel cases should be considered as a whole and not on an individual case by case basis – in order to avoid what the judgement calls ‘overcompensation’.
Here’s the relevant part of the judgement:
any distress and hurt feelings suffered would have to be compensated by reference to the totality of the publications and not on the artificial basis of the sum total of the impact upon his feelings by one individual publication; otherwise there would obviously be a significant risk of overcompensation.
Considering McAlpine has already received over half a million pounds in compensation for exactly the same “distress and hurt feelings suffered”, it would seem he and his lawyers are proceeding clearly on a case by case basis in order to receive yet more compensation – and for some reason they are being allowed by the UK legal establishment to get away with it.
Although the judgement in the McAlpine/Bercow case is yet to be given – it’s expected some time this week – the question is why has the suit not already been dismissed by the judge as an abuse of process on the basis of the above judgement?
This comes on top of the Solicitors Regulation Authority bizarre inaction after McAlpine’s solicitors were accused of breaking the solicitor’s code of practice by indulging in what is known as ‘speculative invoicing’.
Here’s my previous blog post about that:
If the judgement goes against Ms Bercow – with no reference to the above judgement – is it a case of one libel law for Lords of the Realm – and another for the rest of us?
Or is the UK legal establishment making an attempt to reassert its authority over what it sees as a little bit too much in the way of free speech on social media for comfort?
What do you think?
Here’s a link to Smith V ADVFN – the preliminary hearing.
And a link to Smith V ADVFN – the full judgement.
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