Posted on 14.3.17 by Danielle Clements
On Friday, poverty campaigner and food blogger Jack Monroe received £24,000 in damages plus legal fees after successfully suing Katie Hopkins for libel.
After a Second World War Memorial was vandalised with the words ‘F*** Tory scum’, Hopkins took to twitter to insinuate that Jack Monroe was responsible for act, tweeting:
“Scrawled on any memorials recently? Vandalised the memory of those who fought for your freedom. Grandma got any more medals?”
Monroe, whose Brother and Father were both military men, took immediate offence and offered Hopkins the chance to apologise and make a £5K donation to migrant rescue to avoid legal action.
Hopkins refused to apologise and instead claimed she was ‘confused about identity’ and ‘got it wrong’, saying she intended to tweet the accusation at Laurie Penny, a New Statesmen columnist who said she ‘didn’t have a problem’ with the vandalised monument.
Jack Monroe, true to her word, sued Katie Hopkins for her libellous tweet.
Hopkins’ lawyer Jonathon Price argued that the case was ‘trivial’ and ‘resolved on Twitter in a period of several hours’ and that no real harm had been done to Monroe’s reputation.
The judge did not agree…
The case took 21 months to resolve, but in the end judge Justice Warby ruled in favour of Monroe, stating that Hopkin’s libellous comments had ‘not only caused real and substantial distress’ to Monroe, but also ‘harm to her reputation, which was serious’.
Think before you Tweet
In damages plus legal fees, Katie Hopkins is expected to pay in excess of £107,000. That works out to just under £863 per character.
And although Katie Hopkins has made a career of being outspoken and controversial (putting it mildly), even she would likely admit her outburst wasn’t worth the headlines on this occasion.
The damages sum of £24,000 is significant, and media lawyer Mark Stephens of Howard Kennedy now believes this ruling has set a ‘tariff’ for future Twitter libel cases.
Legal experts consider this to be the most significant case in English law involving libel and social media, so much so that the court was forced to publish a ‘how Twitter works’ 26 point guide as part of the ruling.
The case is one of the first cases to look at the definition of serious harm as set out in the Defamation Act 2013. It will now set a precedent for cases going forward and consequently may see an increase in defamation cases relying on the serious harm threshold.
Further due to the fact that an offer of settlement was made to Ms Hopkins early on in the action that would have avoided the large legal costs she has now been ordered to pay, it is a stark reminder of how seriously litigants should consider offers of settlement that are made in legal proceedings.
I recently wrote a blog on the issue of how to identify when comments become libellous and the potential consequences here.
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