Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Communications Social Networks The Courts Twitter United Kingdom Your Rights Online

British Woman's Twitter Comments Spark Expensive Libel Claims 303

Posted by timothy
from the truth-as-defense dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from the BBC: "A woman who complained about an unpaid £146 invoice is facing a libel battle that could cost her more than £100,000. Lesley Kemp, 55, took to Twitter claiming that a company based in the Middle East had failed to pay her promptly for transcription work. Now the firm is suing Mrs Kemp, of Milton Keynes, for defamation, claiming up to £50,000 in damages and a further £70,000 in costs. The company, Resolution Productions, based in Qatar, has yet to comment."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

British Woman's Twitter Comments Spark Expensive Libel Claims

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward

    If what she said is true then she has nothing to worry about. However she'll have to be able to prove it's true.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 20, 2013 @02:56PM (#43505529)

      If what she said is true then she has nothing to worry about. However she'll have to be able to prove it's true.

      people without money don't receive justice against the people buying laws.

      • by TapeCutter (624760) on Saturday April 20, 2013 @07:44PM (#43506859) Journal
        The people who bought this law died in the middle ages. The law has valid uses, Arthur C Clarke used it when one of the tabloids printed headlines claiming he was a pedophile. Character assassination for political purposes is nothing new to the British tabloids. Sure, any law can be abused but this one is mainly used by people who have been screwed over by the tabloids for one reason or another.

        English common law represents a thousand tears of experience administering justice, it would be unwise to throw chunks of it away based on a case that hasn't even gone to court yet.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Truth is not always a defence against libel in the UK. Publishing the truth with intent to damage or for malicious purpose can also be libel.

      • Actually that seems to be the case here. Basedo on this Guardian article [guardian.co.uk], where she says "He said that I was damaging his reputation and that it was all done maliciously" (while nowhere in the article does it say that the company disputes the truth of her claims)
        • by BasilBrush (643681) on Saturday April 20, 2013 @03:29PM (#43505727)

          But this case has not gone to court yet, and her solicitor is persuing it no-win no-fee, which implies he believes she's on the winning side.

          It's a myth that truth isn's a defense against libel in the UK. If you prove that what you said is true, then you win the case.

          The myth seems to come about because the burden of proof is on the person who made the comment to prove the truth of the statement, not the accuser of libel to disprove it.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_defamation_law [wikipedia.org]

          Here, banking records will easily prove her to be telling the truth or not. I suspect this is simply a company trying to bully her with a meritless law-suit.

      • by AK Marc (707885)
        But is publishing a harmful truth with the intention of helping people not get the same problems be "intent to damage" or "malicious"?
      • by fluffy99 (870997)

        Truth is not always a defence against libel in the UK. Publishing the truth with intent to damage or for malicious purpose can also be libel.

        Which actually makes some sense because defamation (via libel or slander) it the act of damaging someones reputation not necessarily by lying. For example if I ran around and told everyone that the someone was having an affair, it still damages their reputation whether it's true or not.

        http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/libel [reference.com]
        libel - defamation by written or printed words, pictures, or in any form other than by spoken words or gestures.

        http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/defamation [reference.com]
        defamation - the ac

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by flimflammer (956759)

        Are you serious? Are people honestly OK with this over there?

        If I publicly state the CEO of a company is essentially stealing from a voluntary funding program inside said company (think donation jar) for orphans and using it to buy 3 course meals for himself, because I'm angry it's happening and want the world to see how horrible he is, can I seriously be sued for defamation?

        It's true! I don't understand how the law could punish me for bringing something horrible to light just because the guy might actually

        • by tehcyder (746570)

          Are you serious? Are people honestly OK with this over there?

          If I publicly state the CEO of a company is essentially stealing from a voluntary funding program inside said company (think donation jar) for orphans and using it to buy 3 course meals for himself, because I'm angry it's happening and want the world to see how horrible he is, can I seriously be sued for defamation?

          It's true! I don't understand how the law could punish me for bringing something horrible to light just because the guy might actually need to face the shame associated with his actions.

          As long as you can prove it's true, you can defend any action he brings for libel in the UK.

          If you can't prove it's true, then yes he is entitled to damages for your falsely maligning him.

      • by Albanach (527650)

        I think you are confused. Malicious intent can undermine a defense based on fair comment - i.e. that the publisher was expressing a reasonably held opinion. Malicious intent does not undermine a defense of truth. See this [ehow.co.uk] and this [independen...book.co.uk].

        Note that I am not a lawyer. This is just what I could gather from five minutes with the google.

      • Publishing the truth with intent to damage or for malicious purpose can also be libel.

        Even when publishing the truth about a group/company/mp/whatever that is causing great harm to people, apparently.

      • by sg_oneill (159032)

        Kind of. The way it works is it has to create a false belief, even if its true. Let me give you an example.

        Lets say for a made up example Barrack Obama has asthma, and uses a ventolin puffer, and lets say in his rushed life he isnt using a preventative. Well docs advise against using a ventolin puffer and no preventative, but its something legal, and common, its just poor management.

        Fox news goes to air and claims "Barrack Obama revealed to be a dependent drug abuser".

        Well lets see. He IS using a drug, spec

    • If what she said is true then she has nothing to worry about. However she'll have to be able to prove it's true.

      If it were in the US, that would be true. But she is in the UK. And in the UK, truth is not an absolute defense against libel charges.

    • by MrHanky (141717)

      That may be so in other countries, but in England? No.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      If what she said is true then she has nothing to worry about. However she'll have to be able to prove it's true.

      Civil claims are ruinously expensive no matter what(even best case, a jurisdiction with robust speech protections and an anti-SLAPP statute with teeth, she'd need somebody to take the case on contingency, and have a sufficiently flexible schedule that 'Oh, just getting embroiled in an ongoing court case' won't, say, get her fired). Also, you might be thinking of American libel law. Over on her Britannic Majesty's side of the pond, the state of libel law is notoriously ghastly.

      • by iserlohn (49556)

        Under English law, the defendant has the burden of proof to show that his or her statement is not defamatory. So what the GP said is absolutely correct. However, it will be very costly for the defendant to do so under the current legal system, and is not practical to do so unless you have serious money on your side.

        So in theory the legal system is designed to prevent libellous statements by putting the burden of proof on the defendant, however in practice, English libel laws are often used to silence critic

  • by Hentes (2461350) on Saturday April 20, 2013 @03:03PM (#43505571)

    While I personally don't like the existence of libel laws, this is not the case of misusing it to censor criticism or somebody getting into trouble for an innocent joke. If the company can prove that they payed her promptly then this is libel, otherwise it's not and she can sue them back for wrongful accusation. Nobody has a right not to get sued.

  • by Brett Buck (811747)

    Why is the truth not considered a valid defense in British courts? Doing otherwise would seem to invite these sorts of suits.

          Brett

    • by l0ungeb0y (442022) on Saturday April 20, 2013 @03:10PM (#43505617) Homepage Journal

      The court has to determine the facts of the matter -- these facts can not be merely assumed as you seem to imply. Thus the court case, the Plaintiff claims that the Defendant was dishonest and caused harm -- so the court must now make a decision on these claims from the evidence and arguments submitted.

      However, the fact that a lawyer and a barrister have both taken up her case Pro-Bono shows that her statements were indeed based upon fact.

      • by 0xdeadbeef (28836)

        Sir, I humbly request you not troll this discussion forum by contradicting yourself so blatantly. No good can come of it.

      • by girlinatrainingbra (2738457) on Saturday April 20, 2013 @04:42PM (#43506137)
        Interesting that you said "a lawyer and a barrister have both taken up her case Pro-Bono [publico]" [emphasis mine]. I was under the impression that "barrister" was the British term for attorney and lawyer. A quick check on wikipedia shows otherwise. Thanks for educating me, or at least pointing me towards getting educated!
        Barristers [wikipedia.org] and solicitors in england are the splitting of the legal profession into two categories.
        -- Those who can represent themselves in place of the client and conduct litigation on behalf of the client are called solicitors [wikipedia.org], and solicitors are attorneys at law [wikipedia.org].
        -- A barrister is not an attorney and is usually forbidden, either by law or professional rules or both, from "conducting" litigation. This means that, while the barrister speaks on the client's behalf in court, he or she can do so only when instructed by a solicitor or certain other qualified professional clients, such as patent agents.
        -- A lawyer is one "learned in the law", and can be an attorney, counsel, or a solicitor.
        -- An is the official name for lawyers in certain jurisdictions, e.g. Japan + Sri Lanka + South Africa + U.S.A. [wikipedia.org]
  • by brucek1999 (2021898) on Saturday April 20, 2013 @03:07PM (#43505595)
    http://www.popehat.com/2013/04/15/in-which-a-london-solicitor-threatens-me/ [popehat.com] Entertaining legal letters included. (Such things DO exist!)
  • I guess it really Depends on your definition of "Prompt" either legally or culturally. In some cultures payment of invoices after 30-120 days is considered normal business practice.

    • by BasilBrush (643681) on Saturday April 20, 2013 @03:20PM (#43505665)

      The contract should specify payment terms. Clearly a prompt payment is one that is within the time scale in the contract. One day later is not prompt.

    • I guess it really Depends on your definition of "Prompt" either legally or culturally. In some cultures payment of invoices after 30-120 days is considered normal business practice.

      Based on the bios [resolutionproductions.tv], I'd say that this isn't a cultural misunderstanding(unless 'self-satisfied marketing flacks who refer to themselves as "creatives"' are a 'culture' now).

  • by future assassin (639396) on Saturday April 20, 2013 @03:45PM (#43505827) Homepage

    in Malibu that goes by the name of Mrs Streisand.

  • Mrs Kemp said she could not afford legal representation, and feared the law suit might ruin her financially.

    More than half the population in the United States cannot afford an attorney to go as far as representing them in a civil suit. I suspect it's even worse in Britain. The court systems are thus fundamentally unfair just because of that aspect alone. I don't know what the best fix is, but a number of ideas have been suggested. One of them is to treat all suits between corporations and people under procedural rules that simplify the process and allows the judge to block sneaky things that corporations usua

  • by Anonymous Coward

    When I am asked to deal with a)lawyers or b)foreign clients, I always ask for money up front. Both types of clients have a nasty habit of stiffing you on the bill. It gets old, really quick.

The greatest productive force is human selfishness. -- Robert Heinlein

Working...