Jack Monroe wins libel claim against Katie Hopkins

Monroe awarded £24,000 over two tweets

In a judgment handed down by Mr Justice Warby on 10 March 2017, Jack Monroe has won £24,000 in damages at the trial of her libel claim against Katie Hopkins. Writer and journalist Monroe brought proceedings against former reality-TV star and journalist Hopkins over the publication of two tweets on 18 May 2015.

The first tweet complained of read: “@MsJackMonroe scrawled on any memorials recently? Vandalised the memory of those who fought for your freedom. Grandma got any more medals”. It was deleted after two hours and twenty-five minutes. The second tweet complained of, which was published at around the time the first was deleted, asked: “Can someone explain to me – in 10 words or less – the difference between irritant @PennyRed and social anthrax @MsJackMonroe”.

The tweets were published in response to online comment and discussion of a tweet by Twitter user @PennyRed which commented of the vandalising of a war memorial with the words “Fuck Tory Scum” that “I don’t have a problem with this. The bravery of past generations does not oblige us to be cowed today.”

When the tweets complained of were published by Hopkins,  Monroe responded, denying that she had scrawled on any war memorials, asking for the first tweet to be deleted, and for a public apology and a £5,000 donation to charity.

Mr Justice Warby decided that the first tweet meant that Monroe “condoned and approved of scrawling on war memorials, vandalising monuments commemorating those who fought for her freedom.” He decided the second tweet had an innuendo meaning which meant to readers with knowledge of the relevant facts that Monroe “condoned and approved of the fact that in the course of an anti-government protest there had been vandalisation by obscene graffiti of the women’s war memorial in Whitehall, a monument to those who fought for her freedom”.

The Judge went on to decide that the tweets were defamatory. He found that the first tweet was published to around 20,000 readers, and was probably re-tweeted extensively, and that the second tweet was published to around 100,000 readers. The requirement for serious harm in section 1 of the Defamation Act 2013 was satisfied, on the basis that the tweets complained of had a tendency to cause harm to Monroe’s reputation in the eyes of third parties, of a kind that would be serious for her.

Damages were awarded in the sum of £24,000, divided into £16,000 for the first tweet and £8,000 for the second tweet, because the majority of harm to reputation will have been caused by the first tweet. There was no injunction since there was no threat of repetition.

This is the second high-profile “Twitter libel” case (following McAlpine v Bercow [2013] EWHC 981 (QB); [2014] EMLR 3).

William Bennett and Greg Callus, both of 5RB, instructed by Mark Lewis of Seddons, acted for Jack Monroe.

The judgment can be found here. A 5RB case report will follow shortly.

UPDATE: Hopkins applied to the trial judge for permission to appeal the decision, an application which was refused. Mr Justice Warby found that he did not have jurisdiction to grant or refuse permission, the application having been made not at hand down but after the order was finalised. He also commented that he would in any event have refused permission as he did not consider any of the grounds of appeal to have a real prospect of success or that there was any other compelling reason for an appeal to be heard. That judgment can be found here.