Warning – sharing this blogpost (in the UK) might be libellous

Tom Pride here discusses another threat to freedom of speech in this country. He points out with the examples of Sally Bercow’s tweet about Lord McAlpine, and the case where a Saudi billionaire sued an American academic for discussing the way Islamic terrorist groups were funded through his banking network, the truth is no defence against prosecution for libel. In the case of Dr Rachel Ehrenfeld, the author of the book ‘Funding Terror’, the Saudi prince and his lawyers accepted that what she said about the way Islamists terrorists were channelling money through the bank accounts set up by the Prince for Islamic religious was true. Dr Ehrenfeldt also made it clear in her book that the Saudi prince himself was unaware of the pernicious uses to which his financial network was being put, and had nothing to do with funding the terrorists. Instead, the prince and his lawyers prosecuted her on the grounds that her inclusion of the awkward facts about the sheikh’s charitable financial accounts were damaging to his reputation as a gentleman. ‘Private Eye’, in their article on the case, pointed out that this aspect of British libel law goes right back to the 19th century, and the Victorians’ belief in the inviolability of a gentleman’s honour. This itself seems to me to be a hangover from medieval chivalry and its codes. They also stated that libel tourism by wealthy foreigners also began in the 19th century, with the use of the British courts by a German prince to prosecute his enemies. The Saudi prince in the Ehrenfeldt case, in the Eye’s opinion, had absolutely no honour. He was partly responsible for the fall of BCCI in the late 1980s, a bank he had helped to set up, with his withdrawal of £20 million. BCCI was notoriously corrupt, to the point where it was nicknamed ‘the Bank of Crooks and Conmen International’ or ‘the Bank of Crooks and Cocaine International. It was, so it has been alleged, one of the conduits through which the CIA moved money to finance cocaine deals. And this hasn’t been the only case where British libel legislation has been used by the wealthy and corrupt to silence their critics and opponents. The Eye has covered another case, in which high-ranking Ukrainian politicians attempted to sue a Ukrainian newspaper for libel, on the grounds that its on-line edition was available and may have been read by people in Britain. That also repeats one of the most notorious abuses of the British libel law in the 19th century. William Cobbett was prosecuted for ‘seditious libel’ in the 1820s for describing the Tsar as a tyrant who was ‘grotesque to his people, and a laughing stock to the rest of the world’. It’s a fairly accurate description, as the Tsars were an absolute monarchy that severely persecuted any, even mild, criticism. It was during the 1820s that the Tsars executed the Decembrists, a group of liberal army officers, for attempting to start an uprising that would give the country a freer, constitutional government. Cobbett suffered frequent prosecution from the British government for his defence of liberty, and at one point emigrated to America to enjoy the far greater political freedom there. Pride’s absolutely right in that the British libel laws desperately need reforming. It’s a grotesque travesty of justice when someone can be successfully prosecuted for it when every word they have written is true. And it should be a matter of national shame that the Americans felt so strongly about Dr Ehrenfeldt’s prosecution by the Saudi prince, that they passed legislation declaring that British legal decisions had no validity under their judicial system, at least in this regard. And its not only Left-wing political bloggers, who have attacked the libel laws. The Ufologist, Jenny Randles, in one of her books declared that the British libel laws you were guilty until proven rich. As for the two other cases he cites, where Jimmy Savile and Cyril Smith also successfully used the law to stifle accusations of their abuse of children, the Eye also stated that Smith was so notorious that one police force used him as an example of a high profile, well-connected paedophile, whom it was impossible to prosecute. There have been murmurs by the various political parties that they want to relax or reform the libel laws over the years, but this seems to come to nothing when those parties are in power. It seems to be far too useful an instrument for the parties to suppress their own critics, or those of the wealthy donors, on whose behalf they really work, for them really to consider reforming them. And as long as this continues, such disgusting miscarriages of justice as the cases of Dr Ehrenfeldt, Savile and Cyril Smith will carry on.

Pride's Purge

EXCLUSIVE – Lord McAlpine Admits to Chip Abuse

.

This headline is entirely true.

On his own admission Lord McAlpine used to subsist on a diet of egg and chips.

Many people think if something is true, under UK law it can’t be libellous  – despite any other implications there may or may not be.

Wrong.

Under UK libel law, if a judge thinks that a statement could mislead someone into believing something damaging, it could be libellous – even if the statement is true.

Sally Bercow didn’t actually write anything untrue about Lord McAlpine – she asked why Lord McAlpine was trending on Twitter – which he was. However, the court decided her now famous tweet implied something much more serious and damaging to Lord McAlpine’s reputation.

In the UK, not even the truth is protection from any wealthy person who may want to stop someone with less money…

View original post 408 more words

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: