Sunday, 27 January 2013

An appeal, Mr Justice Eady and the obvious benefits of Betamax over VHS

Just to prove that a certain chap of some facial discomfiture has not been making this up for the last (nearly) three years,  the die has inexorably been cast. At 10:30 am on Monday 28th January 2013, in Court 13 in the Court of Appeal itself within the Royal Courts of Justice, a whisker-sodden sc'undrel's appeal is being heard before the esteemed Mr Justice Eady. 

Is there a public interest?

The overriding argument behind this appeal is to invite the Court to decide that there is no public interest in allowing a public authority such as a state funded university to sue in defamation, in this case libel. Readers may recall the Derbyshire Principle. Should a public authority be able to sue for libel? I've argued in court that it's a tad hostile to something known in the freedoms trade as 'freedom of expression'. How much? Well get your foot rules out and measure this: the Rat Catchers of the Sewers website has been unavailable to the public because of this claim since April/May 2010. Nope... no injunction has been served on this tweed-wearer so far. It's been achieved through a simple mechanism known among the libel fraternity as the 'chilling effect'. It's rather effective. Let's look at a hypothetical ramification if a university as a public authority is allowed to sue in defamation.

Hypothetical Ramification #5 - it's not on the White Album

You are an employee of a public authority. This public authority has itself published surveys that show senior managers are responsible for significant levels of staff bullying and what a reasonable person might describe as extraordinary levels of harassment. You're a rep in your trade union and decide to speak out about your own experiences and the experiences of members of your union. You decide to raise them at a forthcoming lunchtime public union meeting. You read in the press that your employer - the public authority - has decided to sue one of your members for libel. You shiver.

A much-valued Sony Betamax in happier days,
taking in some much needed Vitamin D

Legal representation - open to everyone regardless of ability to pay

Now you're a principled person. You want to do right by your members. Yet there's a problem. You can't get Legal Aid for defending against defamation claims. So you decide to lodge your pride and joy - a 1982 technically superior Betamax video cassette recorder (with an unaligned but recently degaussed playback/record head) with your local 'Your Stuff to Cash Transformer'.  You receive an almost kingly ransom of £12.30 and wonder why staff are pissing themselves in paroxysms as you leave the 'shop'. After checking over the health of your current account through the wizardry of modern online banking techniques, you decide that as your overdraft doesn't extend to several hundreds of thousands of pounds for lining the pockets of the legal profession, you might be better served keeping your gob shut and not standing for re-election next year as union rep. It's an employer's dream strategy and it's only gone and ruddy well worked. Soon word gets round, and across the country the fear sets in. Everyone's terrified that there might be a management stooge in their union meetings with a concealed digital voice recorder. Collectively they shudder at the thought of that Pre-Action Protocol dropping through their letter boxes.

Back to the events of tomorrow

Deputy Vice Chancellor Graves and Professor Hall have for this appeal, decided to secure the services of  Counsel in the shape of one Mr Justin Rushbrooke. I'm told he's very good indeed. I wonder how much his services are costing? It's likely that former Chair of Audit for Salford University governing council Ian Austin will be there in his legal capacity representing the University. I wonder how much his services have cost so far throughout this whole process?

I as usual, will be representing myself.

Notes and Resources

Before considering taking legal action in the form of a libel claim, all the above has been asserted in open court, so there!

Usual disclaimer: This work is and expression of opinion on a matter of public interest and contains the opinions of the author. It is intended to report current events that are of public interest and public concern. The reproduction and use of any documents, photos and video images herein is to provide humour and accuracy in order to avoid civil litigation and claims of misquoting. In reporting current events they are used within the context of Fair Dealing or Fair Use. The author is happy to provide further acknowledgement if requested (email below). 

 The author also suggests that before embarking upon expensive civil actions for libel, contact the author. We have reams of documentary evidence which we are happy to provide. A right of reply also operates. We are also happy to make corrections and if necessary provide an apology. Email