30/05/2014       Congratulations to libel defendant Lesley Kemp & £778.87 for the Libel Reform Campaign

You may remember the terrible case of Lesley Kemp, a transcriber who was sued for libel after tweeting about her delayed payment last year. In April 2013, the Guardian headline read: “Typist who complained about alleged late payment on Twitter faces lawsuit: Qatar-based businessman sues Lesley Kemp for libel over comments on Twitter in case that could cost her £150,000.”

Facing bankruptcy, Lesley was in a desperate situation, but the general public donated £1,900 to cover some of her legal cost and she was able to defend her right to free speech, with Robert Dougans of Bryan Cave by her side. Robert, of course, defended me in BCA v Singh.

The good news is that the case against Lesley was dropped, as reported by the BBC in November 2013. You can read Lesley’s own account of her battle with Mr Kirby Kearns of Resolution Productions in her own blog.

It was one of the last libel cases before the Defamation Act came into force on Jan 1, 2014, and in many ways showed why the law needed changing. Robert Dougans told me: “It is gratifying that the case was dropped, but a shame it was ever started if Kearns was able but unwilling to pay security. Also, the award of indemnity costs should be an example to lawyers and litigants that the Courts are getting less tolerant of “gamesmanship” and aggressive conduct, and will want people to act in a sensible and proportionate way in fighting cases. Hopefully this will mean that libel cases become less heated and parties and lawyers focus on resolving a case rather than scoring points.”

The bad news is that the Libel Reform Campaign is still busy, because Northern Ireland has not adopted the new Defamation Act, and seems reluctant to correct a set of laws that are clearly hostile to free speech. You can find out more about libel reform in N.I. in the Belfast Telegraph.

Hence, the Libel Reform Campaign still needs your support, so please visit the campaign’s Just Giving page if you can spare a fiver.

Moreover, the Lesley Kemp fund still has £778.37 leftover after paying various court fees. Lesley has suggested the money be donated to the Libel Reform Campaign, so thanks from me and the rest of the campaign to everyone who supported Lesley. We hope you agree that your money is still going to a good cause.