On 25 March 2012, the Sunday Times published a series of articles following a covertly recorded meeting between two undercover journalists and the Claimant, the then Co-Treasurer of the Conservative Party. The article concerned a proposed donation to the Conservative Party.
Immediately following those articles – for which the Defendant a political consultant and Blogger took credit as being the “whistleblower” behind the story – the Defendant published a series of Tweets and Blog entries which suggested that the Claimant was a criminal, liable to arrest at any time, who had breached the provisions of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 by seeking to secure an illegal political donation for the Conservative Party.
Following numerous Tweets, in which the Defendant repeated his allegations that the Claimant was a criminal and dared him to sue the Defendant, the Claimant commenced proceedings at the end of July 2012.
Having previously been cleared of any wrong-doing by the Electoral Commission, the Claimant also received confirmation in early September 2012 that, following an assessment of the Sunday Times material, the Police had decided that there was no evidence of any criminal conduct on the part of the Claimant “either directly or by implication” and that “no inchoate offences had been committed”. The Defendant made no reference to the conclusions of the police either on Twitter or in his Blog.
Despite being given an opportunity to consider a transcript of the meeting between the Claimant and the Sunday Times journalists to enable him to consider whether he had a basis upon which to defend his allegations, the Defendant decided not to file a Defence. Judgment in default was finally entered on 16 November 2012.
The Court heard evidence from the Claimant and the Defendant at the assessment of damages hearing on 23 and 24 January 2012.