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November 27, 2014

‘Plebgate’ Judgment

Category: Defamation

Tag: Defamation

Mitting J: Mitchell said words alleged or similar


Today Mr Justice Mitting gave judgment on the preliminary issue of whether the words complained of were substantially true in the claims between Andrew Mitchell MP, News Group Newspapers publishers of The Sun, and PC Toby Rowland.

PC Rowland was at the gates of Downing Street when Mr Mitchell was prevented from leaving on his bike. Words were exchanged between them. The Sun ran a story in which it was said that Mr Mitchell had shouted at police officers “Best you learn your fucking place. You don’t run this fucking government. You’re fucking plebs”. Mr Mitchell was forced to resign as Tory Chief Whip. He later made a series of statements which questioned PC Rowland’s account of events. Mr Mitchell sued The Sun for libel, which pleaded defences of justification and Reynolds privilege. PC Rowland in turn sued Mr Mitchell, who pleaded justification. The two actions were heard together, in a trial lasting almost two weeks.

Mitting J was satisfied that, on the balance of probabilities, Mr Mitchell did say the words alleged or words so close as to amount to the same, including the word “pleb”.

After further submissions from counsel for each party, Mitting J decided that there is to be a period of 14 days for Mr Mitchell to consider the judgment, and to formulate an undertaking to PC Rowland and the court; and for the parties to agree next steps. If next steps cannot be agreed, the parties are to come back before the court.

Mr Mitchell was ordered to pay interim costs of £300,000, to be split evenly between PC Rowland and News Group Newspapers

Mr Mitchell was represented by James Price QC and Victoria Jolliffe, both of 5RB. News Group Newspapers by Gavin Millar QC of Doughty Street and Adam Wolanski of 5RB. PC Rowland by Desmond Browne QC of 5RB and Catrin Evans, of One Brick Court.

5RB live-tweeted from court during Mr Justice Mitting’s judgment. Please see @5RB on Twitter.

UPDATE: The judgment is now available here on Bailii. 

Links:

Andrew Mitchell ‘probably called police plebs’, judge rules – BBC News

Andrew Mitchell loses Plebgate trial – The Guardian

Plebgate: Andrew Mitchell did call policemen ‘plebs,’ judge rules – Telegraph

Andrew Mitchell loses Plebgate libel trial and faces £3m billDaily Mail

Judge Rules Mitchell Did Call Cops ‘Plebs’ – Sky News

Plebgate libel verdict: Judge rules against ex-Tory chief whip Andrew Mitchell – Evening Standard

Andrew Mitchell Loses Libel Action Over ‘Plebgate’Huffington Post