Matter will now go to trial after judge rules public interest defence admissible – along with details of articles in case for which TV performer paid costs to Heybroek
Writer Mike Sivier has won his appeal against an initial judgment disallowing an ‘public interest’ defence against the libel action brought against him by TV performer Rachel Riley. The case will now go to trial unless a settlement is reached between the parties.
The judge’s ruling means that Sivier can present a ‘public interest defence’ in the case and that he will be entitled to bring in articles that were the subject of a case brought by Riley and actress Tracy-Ann Oberman against Jane Heybroek.
Articles by ex-pat author Shaun Lawson were the subject of previous litigation in which barrister Heybroek was sued by Miss Riley and Tracey-Ann Oberman for having retweeted one of them. The judgment in that case is available here.
Interestingly, in that case, Mr Justice Jay found that the words complained of were, for the most part, expressions of opinion. One can only speculate as to why the case settled, but proving someone didn’t have a reasonably-held opinion is difficult. At the time, Riley and Oberman’s lawyer said they settled because the case was about a simple retweet that had been deleted. Ms Heybroek, in her statement at the time of settlement, said that she had deleted her tweet even before she received a letter before claim.
One of the main planks of Mike Sivier’s public interest defence is that he relied on articles also written by Shaun Lawson. The Court of Appeal specifically rejected Miss Riley’s counsel’s submissions that the Lawson articles were “irrelevant”, at paragraph 34 of the judgment.
Note: this article originally stated that the ruling allowed an ‘honest opinion’ defence. This was left in from an earlier draft in error. The ruling permits a ‘public interest’ defence but links to the Heybroek case that involved ‘honest opinion’.
Ms Riley and Ms Oberman settled the Heybroek case before it concluded, by paying a portion of her costs.
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