Support the Lesley Kemp Libel Fighting Fund

Here’s something I put together for the Libel Reform Campaign.

As we prepare for the Defamation Bill debate in the House of Commons on Tuesday 16 April, another libel case has emerged that demonstrates the urgent need for libel reform.

The Libel Reform Campaign is urging its supporters to support a legal fighting fund for Lesley Kemp. Lesley is a professional transcriber living in Milton Keynes. In August last year she took on some work for a film production company based overseas. After the late payment of an invoice for just £146, and the deduction of a £25 fee for the international bank transfer, Lesley tweeted her frustration. When the account was finally paid in full, she followed up with a positive tweet noting that fact.

Lesley is now being sued by the director of the production company! The claimant’s solicitors are asking for damages, a permanent injunction and legal costs.

These proceedings have had a serious impact on Lesley’s well-being. She writes:

I am unable to afford legal representation and I’m ineligible for legal aid. The costs and other expenses associated with the legal process are prohibitive to me. I am almost 56 years of age, close to retirement but it looks very likely that this action … will result in the loss of my home and business and pretty much destroy my life.

Thankfully, Robert Dougans of legal firm Bryan Cave and barrister Jonathan Price have just agreed to represent Lesley on a no-win, no-fee basis. However, she must still pay court fees, other expenses, and an interim payment of costs to be able to take the case to trial. A fighting fund for Lesley Kemp as been set up at www.kapipal.com/lesley-kemp. A few supporters of the Libel Reform Campaign have already donated, but we need more people to chip-in to help her defend the case. We only need to raise about £800 to pay the fees ordered by the court. Another £1,000 will be needed to take the case to trial.

These disproportionate libel threats are precisely the kind of actions that the Libel Reform Campaign hopes will be resolved by the Defamation Bill. The toughened defences of serious harm and truth in the Bill would discourage such claims in the future.

However, the Defamation Bill is not yet law. The new defences we have campaigned for cannot help Lesley. Please visit www.kapipal.com/lesley-kemp today and make a small donation to Lesley’s fighting fund.

5 thoughts on “Support the Lesley Kemp Libel Fighting Fund

  1. Excellent result with raising the funds. And Robert Dougans is one of the best.

    Having researched quite a few libel cases, this surely must be another one destined for the bin. However, not pleasant at all for Lesley to have to deal with this and of course the costs. I know of people who have had nervous breakdowns and have been successfully fleeced out of large sums for cases which the judge later described as ‘simply nonsense’. The secret is never to back down because there is always plenty of support as we have seen here and justice does nearly always prevail. That said, I would be in favour of setting up a fund for all victims of this type of litigation as it is still happening far too frequently.

    You would think claimant solicitors would have learned from other cases by now. I often wonder whether the solicitors who take on these hopeless cases on behalf of claimants actually know that they are doomed from the start. If not, perhaps that is even more worrying and a sad reflection of the complete lack of knowledge of how libel law works in practice.

    We have already seen the results of solicitors who have acted for claimants who have proceeded with ridiculous libel cases. In one case I recall, the judge absolutely slated the claimant law firm for numerous protocol breaches and failures. And in the final hearing, the case was quite literally laughed out of the courtroom by the judges and those lucky enough to be present in the gallery, when the claimant rose to address the court with his hilarious and absurd complaints. Pure comedy it was.

    I would love to hear what the judge will say about this when it gets to court. One thing I think we can all be sure of is that as with the other cases, once its over, the publicity and ridicule will follow the claimant and his lawyers around for some time to come.

  2. Reference Loverat’s comment – It seems my case may be the tip of the iceberg and I too was wondering about some kind of fund. I shall look into this when my case is over and see whether it could be a possibility and how I might be able to use my unfortunate circumstances to do some good. Robert, for the past 6 months I have felt bullied, harassed and intimidated and I cannot even begin to describe the stress I have suffered but worse what my kind, supportive, loyal husband has had to bear. Thanks to the generosity of spirit and donations from good folk for which I shall forever be grateful, I have a chance to stand up with good conscience and say NO, I will NOT be bullied.

  3. I think I should probably refrain from bashing claimant solicitors too much and perhaps these points are more suited for another time. However I cannot help thinking, if these solicitors are supposed to know what they are doing, why on earth are they pursuing this case?

    Anyway – I am not a lawyer but unless I have missed something, surely this case is hopeless. Perhaps to find the answer, one has to look at other cases where the claimant solicitor reckoned on the defendants backing down and settling.(see the ridiculous Dee V The Telegraph) On the other hand, perhaps they have advised the claimant that the case is weak but the client insists on pursuing it. Maybe this was what happened to Miscon De Reya which pursued a libel case (Lenigas/Lonzim v Sprague) brought by a headstrong company director against one of its shareholders. The judge described that case as ‘vexatious’. There are other examples – which is why Lesley is correct to describe this as the tip of the iceberg.

    As for this case I was looking at the tweets which have been complained of. I do not know what is in the particulars of the claim but putting all the other possible obvious reasons aside why this case might be dismissed quickly, Waterson V Lloyd might be one worth thinking about. It dealt with the distinction between fact and comment. Two out of the three Appeal Judges concluded that the defendant had made a statement of fact and then had expressed an honest opinion. There was some disagreement between the judges but the common sense view of the two Appeal judges prevailed.

    I am not suggesting that Lesley’s case would be similar or as controversial as Waterson V Lloyd but it does perhaps indicate how a judge might view the case. As far as I can tell Lesley stated a fact and then expressed an opinion. The crucial point I believe would be to look at whether the facts stated in the tweet are correct. If so, I think the opinion which accompanied those facts is largely irrelevant. The reputation of the claimant will be determined by the facts about the way they have behaved, rather than what others are saying about it.(this point also came up in Smith V ADVFN)

    Also see – Smith V ADVFN – Para 107 about strident and forceful opinions.

    http://www.bailii.org/cgi-bin/markup.cgi?doc=/ew/cases/EWHC/QB/2008/1797.html&query=smith+and+v+and+advfn&method=boolean

    Article on Waterson V Lloyd

    http://inforrm.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/case-law-waterson-v-lloyd-honest-comment-and-political-discussion-edward-craven/

    Finally I do agree with the Libel Reform Campaign about the need to change the law. However, I think it has to be recognised more that the way judges are currently interpreting the unsatisfactory law still ultimately protects people like Lesley. That message needs to get out to more people. I think the Simon Singh case was a one off bad decision and judges will continue booting out useless cases regardless of current law. The problem is more that it is too easy to intimidate and bully people in the first place and libel cases are allowed to drag and drift on and on.

    Sorry for the long post. Its a subject I feel strongly about and once I start writing find it difficult to stop! Anyway, perhaps some of the above references and examples might be useful to some.

    All the best

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