It’ll be interesting to see which way this goes

Cadwalladr is now defending the claim against her on the basis that her reporting was in the public interest.

IANAL. However, I’m not entirely sure that we have a public interest defence to libel in England, do we? Thought that was more an American thing?

When Banks first brought his case against Cadwalladr, seven press freedom groups, among them Reporters Without Borders and Index On Censorship, called for the case to be thrown out and for the British government to defend public-interest journalism. Their open letter described the case as bearing many of the hallmarks of a so-called Slapp suit – strategic lawsuits against public participation – in which legal action will inevitably be expensive and time consuming for journalists to resist.

Equally, Slapp is an American, not English, thing isn’t it?

19 thoughts on “It’ll be interesting to see which way this goes”

  1. That may be a rhetorical question, MC, but Leo Strauss’s answer would be When the countervailing truths are truths that no decent person discloses. I framed the neologism left-straussian in my own mind at least couple of years before the earliest sighting on the Internet.

    As I recall, I was inspired by academics deploring the teaching of classical economics and evolutionary psychology to undergraduates in the US on the grounds that they would then be unleashed on the world dangerously ignorant of the all important qualifications of imperfect competition and epigenetics reserved for graduate-level specialization (so called 101-itis).

  2. If Cadwalladr does prevail we will know equality before the Law is dead. Effectively Remainers will have carte Blanche to libel/ slander people indefinitely without proof.

  3. VP, what else is the fuss about ‘hate speech’ except to privilege one party to vilify the other without fear of retaliation?

  4. The judge has blocked the defence of truth, so she has to argue that a lie is in the public interest. Hmmmm…
    Although I’m a bit baffled why the TED talk is still available and Banks hasn’t sued TED. Perhaps because he’d have to sue in the US, where lies are perfectly OK?

  5. “ she had always been careful to say there was no evidence to suggest Banks had accepted any money.”

    Obviously not careful enough.

  6. “The judge has blocked the defence of truth”

    Well, there’s your problem right there. If truth is not a defence, then libel suits can be used to allow money to do anything with impunity.

  7. The judge ‘blocked the defence of truth’ by ruling that the accusations were untrue, not by saying truth was not a valid defence.

  8. Cadwalladr had plenty of opportunity to retract or amend her remarks. This is not some vexatious case or an attempt to silence heroic reporting: much of her output is erroneous or just plain made-up and Banks had had enough. Like another Orwell Award winning journalist, most of the “facts” about which she writes only happen in her head.
    As usual the Graun/Obs are being disingenuous or just outright lying . It is a basic precept of Free Speech and nothing to do with investigative journalism – one may not defame other people.

  9. Harry Haddock's Ghost

    That article demonstrates perfectly how low down the scale of journalism the Guardian has slipped. Believe it or not, young readers, once upon a time, the truth actually used to matter to the Manchester Guardian.

  10. It’s a defence against defamation. IANAL, but there may be some difference between that and libel?
    https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2013/26/crossheading/defences/enacted appears to be the relevant bit of legislation.
    It appears to be designed to protect journalists reporting on allegations which could be construed as defamatory. Otherwise any defendant who was acquitted could sue the media for defamation even if they reported accurately.
    I suspect the nuance here will be whether Cadwalladr is deemed to be merely reporting, or was actually making the allegations herself.

  11. Philip: “Although I’m a bit baffled why the TED talk is still available and Banks hasn’t sued TED. Perhaps because he’d have to sue in the US, where lies are perfectly OK?”

    Because in the US there’s that 1st amendment thingie that’s zealously trotted out whenever convenient?
    If he gets a libel conviction in the UK he’s got a stick to hit stuff with, but as long as he hasn’t it’s just her opinion on, of all things, a Furriner, thus sacrosanct in the Eye of Nuggan.

  12. I can’t trust anybody who can’t even spell Cadwallader correctly. Having used the name myself as a nom de plume 30 years ago, I know how to spell it.

  13. @ Harry Haddock’s Ghost
    I stopped trusting the Manchester Grauniad when I realised that their Vietnam reports were just a bowdlerised plagiarism of those in the Daily Worker. In those days its lies were just less blatant.
    You may be older than I but I am, regrettably, no longer able to pretend that I am young.

  14. Cadwaller seems to be relying on “that’s not what I meant when I said that thing” as a defence.
    I’m not sure she would be tolerant of that in accusations of comments being racist or alphabet phobic. In fact I’m damn sure she wouldn’t.

    I’m also damn sure she did mean for us to think it.

  15. If you’re unable to make your meaning clear in what you write, perhaps journalism is not the career for you. Unless it’s at the Graun.

  16. “Cadwaller seems to be relying on “that’s not what I meant when I said that thing” as a defence”

    Not consistent with “Cadwalladr had plenty of opportunity to retract or amend her remarks.”

    If that’s what she meant, she had the opportunity to correct it. If it can be shown that she was given that opportunity and continually declined to use it, then she needs suing.

    Bit smarmy of Graun to use the “judge withdrawn defence of truth” phrasing. What it actually means is that “judge ruled the statements were untrue, so defence of truth not available…”

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