Rachel Riley wins case against political blogger Mike Sivier: £50,000 damages and injunction granted
This morning Mrs Justice Steyn handed down judgment in a libel action brought by Rachel Riley against a blogger, Michael Sivier. Judgment was given for Ms Riley.
Ms Riley sued on an online article published by Mr Sivier that accused her, as statement of fact, of having conducted a campaign of online abuse and harassment of a 16-year-old girl, which incited Ms Riley’s followers on Twitter to make death threats towards the girl. Related statements of opinion accused Ms Riley of hypocrisy – because she had described herself as a victim of online abuse – and of acting recklessly and obscenely.
The Defendant’s truth and honest opinion defences had been struck out by judgment of Mrs Justice Collins Rice in January 2021. Mr Sivier therefore relied at trial only on a public interest publication defence under s.4 Defamation Act 2013.
The Court rejected the s.4 defence. Mr Sivier was held to have published on a matter of public interest and to have had a belief in public interest publication. But his belief was not found to be reasonable. In that respect Steyn J held:
“…his belief was manifestly unreasonable. Despite the summary dismissal of his truth defence, Mr Sivier maintained that his allegations were true, and in any event that it was reasonable for him to believe them to be true. Although the issue does not strictly arise, I have no hesitation in agreeing with Collins Rice J’s conclusion that the statement complained of was not only untrue, it was not even arguably true. “
Publication was held to have been made to about 50,000 readers. Serious harm to the Claimant’s reputation was made out.
Ms Riley was awarded damages of £50,000 and a permanent injunction.
The judgment can be downloaded from the ‘Files’ link below.
5RB’s John Stables acted for Ms Riley, instructed by Patron Law.