Attempt to sue Jane Heybroek ended with claimants paying her legal costs
The latest in Twitter’s long line of Pavlovian suspensions of left accounts because of campaigns of vexatious complaints appears to have continued with the removal of the account of Jane Heybroek, a barrister and left-wing activist.
Ms Heybroek’s account was suspended – without any explanation or reason – leading to followers being unable to access her Twitter feed:
The account has now been reinstated after outraged tweets and emails from her supporters – also without any reason or apology from Twitter.
Ms Heybroek is a prominent left-winger who recently won a huge court victory against two TV personalities, who had attempted to sue her for sharing a tweet by a Jewish commentator but ended up making an almost unprecedented offer in order to extricate themselves from the case. After the win, she issued a statement:
I am Jane Heybroek, a barrister specialising in immigration work. I was the subject of discourse on Twitter, and reports in the mainstream media, earlier this year, as a result of a libel claim being brought against me by the television presenter Rachel Riley and the actress Tracy Ann Oberman.
I am now able to report that the claim against me has been withdrawn and that Ms Riley and Ms Oberman have agreed to make contributions towards my legal costs. I wish to thank everyone who has helped me in the last 18 months; it will not be forgotten.
Ms Riley and Ms Oberman are not personally known to me. Their claim saw them seeking damages and costs in respect of my re-tweet of a tweet by the blogger Shaun Lawson, which contained a link to a blog article he had written about them in January 2019.
Mr Lawson’s article, which concerned the celebrities’ alleged behaviour towards a teenage Labour supporter on Twitter in January 2019, had been re-tweeted/shared by hundreds of people. Some of those people were threatened with legal action like me; others were not.
Ultimately, despite press reports which suggested as many as 70 people might face legal action, I was the only person who was sued. This was despite the fact that I had deleted my re-tweet before I had even received Letters of Claim. I did not even know how long my re-tweet had been live for. Neither, it seems, did Ms Riley or Ms Oberman.
There was no evidence, that I am aware of, to suggest that anyone had read the blog article as a result of clicking the link in my re-tweet. There were also various other ways in which the claim against me could have been (and would have been, had it proceeded) defended.
Ms Riley and Ms Oberman were being represented, from the very outset, on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis, and had ‘after the event insurance’. This meant that there was almost no risk to them in bringing the claim. Many people would have felt forced to settle for reasons of pragmatism. Whilst I am in a more fortunate position than most, after having spent almost £30,000 by a very early stage, it was clear to me that I would have no prospect of funding my defence to trial without help. I therefore launched a fundraiser on the website CrowdJustice.com, and was overwhelmed by the response which I received.
Due to the support of a great many people, I was able to continue to retain leading defamation lawyers, and properly contest the case.
I am making this statement for the benefit of those who have supported me emotionally and financially, and to address one other issue.
Ms Riley and Ms Oberman’s vocal stance against antisemitism (and perceived antisemitism) has been widely documented, as has their involvement in other legal cases. This claim, however, did not actually involve any allegations of antisemitism against me or indeed Mr Lawson.
I understand that Mr Lawson is himself Jewish and that his grandmother was a holocaust survivor. For my part, I abhor all forms of racism. Unfortunately, as a result of the litigation, I was subject of a number of nasty comments from a small minority of people who simply presumed to know what the case was about and what the outcome would be. They were wrong on both counts.
Finally, as I have said throughout to those who have supported me, I ask people, for their own sakes, not to discuss the content of Mr Lawson’s article, nor to comment on Ms Riley or Ms Oberman on social media more generally.
Notwithstanding the fact that I am a lawyer by profession, this has been a long, and at times exhausting experience, and I would not wish anyone to find themselves on the receiving end of legal action.
In recent months, Twitter has been suspending a string of left accounts, including multiple suspensions of the account of Kerry-Anne Mendoza, the editor of left-wing publication The Canary, and that of the Jewish author and former African National Congress MP Andrew Feinstein, after false complaints against them that they had shared others’ private information. At least one of the celebrities involved in the Heybroek case posted a self-congratulatory tweet about the part she felt she had played in the Mendoza suspension.
The social media company’s press office said that Mendoza’s account had been suspended ‘mistakenly’, but Twitter has now stopped responding to the SKWAWKBOX’s enquiries about its habit.
Upon the restoration of her account, Heybroek tweeted:
The latest suspension has prompted demands for Twitter to correct its complaints process, rather than take knee-jerk actions against the targets of vexatious campaigns:
The company badly needs to get its act together.
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