A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Libel Court

Only yesterday I noticed this rather curious report in the Press Gazette

A solicitor failed in an attempt to sue a political blogger for defamation and malicious falsehood when a judge decided that the words of which he complained could not be held to refer to him.

The lawyer, Robin Tilbrook, chairman of the English Democrats party, sued Stuart Parr, the author of the Bloggers4UKIP blog for defamation and malicious falsehood, claiming that he was defamed in a post which said that two former BNP members had joined his party and ended with the words “English Democrats: Not left, not right, just racist.”

Mr Tilbrook said he was chairman and a founder member of the English Democrats, which was campaigning for an English Parliament and Government like that in Scotland within a federal UK, and which was was expressly open to all people of any background or ethnicity who shared its aims.

Mr Parr applied for the case to be struck out, or for summary judgment.

A political blogger sued for defamation and malicious falsehood?

A couple of quick inquiries later it transpires that Stuart Parr is the real name of Wonkotsane, author of Wonko’s World, English civic nationalist and someone with whom I’ve conversed and debated online in the past and always foud to be a thoroughly decent chap, all of which left me wonder quite what Wonko could possibly have done to land himself in the High Court in front of Mr Justice Tugendhat.

Thw answer, it seems lies in a short article posted to his own blog and to Bloggers4UKIP, last November, on the subject of a new recruit to the ranks of the English Democrat Party (EDP).

Eddy Butler, the former National Front, former BNP, former Freedom Party, former BNP a couple more times, former BNP national elections co-ordinator, has joined the English Democrats.

Hang on, Eddy Butler…?

The same Eddy Butler who ran the notorious ‘Rights for Whites’ campaign in Tower Hamlets back in the mid 1990’s?

The Eddy Butler who who tried to run against Nick Griffin for the leadership of the BNP in 2010 and, as inevitably happens, got himself explled from the party shortly afterwards?

That Eddy Butler?

Apparently so… and it’s seems that Butler was the first rat out the sinking BNP ship to use the English Democrats as a lifeboat…

The announcement, which was the EDP’s worst kept secret since his mate Richard Barnbrook joined in January, will be a bitter blow to the handful of party activists that haven’t yet joined UKIP who had hoped to stop the BNP takeover of the party.

Fuck me… Barnbrook as well?

Did the BNP have a spcial offer on – buy one fascist, get one free.

After a paragraph explaining that UKIP has gone federalist, Wonko signed off his article with the following observation…

English Democrats: not left, not right, just racist.

All of which strikes as the kind of opinion that any reasonable might form when one discovers that a political party, even a comedy one like the English Democrats, has been actively recruiting disaffected former senior members of the BNP, but its that particular statement that appears to have landed Wonko on court and on the wrong end of a blatantly misconceived, vexatious and intimidatory defamation suit brought by the Chairman of the EDP, Robin Tilbrook, a man with previous form for taking criticism of his party to very personal, and extremely stupid lengths.

To put that last statement into context, I had a bit of a minor run-in with one of Tilbrook’s associates, the aptly named Alan England, over an article posted at Lib Con by David Semple in which he, quite correctly, noted that the choice of St George, a Roman soldier from Syria Palestina, as England’s patron saint may seem somewhat incongruous given that England has several eminent native saints of its own.

“That England celebrates St. George’s Day as its national day has always struck me as somewhat absurd, bearing in mind the number of eminent Saints who graced these shores: the healing St. Cuthbert, the humble St. Thomas Becket who stood up to autocracy, or the learned humanist, Thomas More.”

For daring to state the obvious, David was sent, via Sunny, the following, hilariously swivel-eyed, email by Alan England…

Dear Mr Semple

Re: Distorting St George’s day

I observe that you lack the candour to disclose YOUR interest in this subject of St George’s Day.

In short, do you regard yourself first and foremost as anything other than English?

You say: “That England celebrates St. George’s Day as its national day has always struck me as somewhat absurd, bearing in mind the number of eminent Saints who graced these shores: the healing St. Cuthbert, the humble St. Thomas Becket who stood up to autocracy, or the learned humanist, Thomas More.” when this disparaging remark could be applied also to Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

However, you have presumed to single out England and the English for this and other insulting and humiliating public remarks and, in doing so, you breach the Race Relations Act 1976 which includes nationality, national origins and ethnic origins in its definition of “racial grounds”.

Anti-English institutional racism seems to be rampant throughout the Labour Party.

Please send me a postal address where the issue of anti-English racism can be pursued and settled in court if necessary.

 

Yours sincerely

Alan England

Director –  English Lobby

Naturally the response I posted in comments referred Mr England to the leading case in such matters – Arkell vs Pressdram.

The back story here is that, in 2008, Tilbrook and England announced that they’d set up a ‘special unit’ to combat discrimination against the English by [and here I’ll skip their bullshit and tell you what it appears they actually did] firing off Race Relations Act questionnaires and hyperbolic, but ultimately hollow, threats of legal action to anyone who chose to regard their activities, and especially their ad nauseum efforts to promote St. George’s Day, with anything less than slack-jawed appreciation.

So far as I’ve yet been able to determine, the only actual litigation to arise from any of this nonsense was a case heard by Cambridge County Court in 2010 – in which Tilbrook acted for two EDP members, Steve Uncles and Lawrence Williams – against HSBC after a branch in Bexley refused to open an account

Earlier this year, Tilbrook posted a heavily edited extract from court’s ruling in this case on his personal blog under the title ‘Anti-English Discrimination? – SUE!!!‘ – the article prefaces this extract with the following comments:

Any English person should take heart from a recent Judgment of Cambridge County Court, the key elements of which I set out below.

If you encounter anti-English discrimination, in any form – SUE, help the Cause and also make yourself some money!

Tilbrook’s post appears to omit a number of important details, not least the actual outcome of the case, which Uncles and Williams lost, leaving them with a £7,500 bill for costs.

As best I can make out, working around the omissions and redactions, the bank admitted to the conduct element of discrimination – Uncles and Williams were treated less favourably than others in the provision of good and services, but the court accepted that this wasn’t because they were English but because the Bank Manager had genuinely but – cough – mistakenly believed the EDP to be a racist political party based on a short report provided to him by the teller who was dealing with the application to open the account, and a claim for harassment failed for much the same reason, even if the court felt that both had been badly treated.

What the ruling does include is a hypothetical opinion on the amount of damages that would have been awards – £1,000 each – had the harassment claim succeeded and its this part of the extract plus the very obvious omission of information that one suspects would paint the case in a rather different light to that which Tilbrook is seeking to promote that seems to be the basis for the disingenuous suggest that people should…

SUE, help the Cause and also make yourself some money!

The truth – ‘SUE… and end up with a bill for £7,500 in costs’  – is, quite obviously, a much less enticing promotional message.

A more interesting question, perhaps, although one I’m content to leave to legal ethicists, is that of how well his promotional schtick sits with his day job as practising solicitor although, as purely personal impression, I can’t but feel that that he may be better off sticking to conveyancing that dabbling in litigating race relations claims…

…or, indeed, libel actions, if Mr Justice Tugenhadt’s ruling in his case against Wonko – in which Tilbrook appears to have acted as litigant-in-person – is anything to go by.

So far as the substance of his complaint goes, Tilbrook states that the claim that Richard Barnbrook had joined the EDP is untrue and, indeed, it does appear that the EDP’s London Committee did vote to exclude him from the party, but only after he’d been invited to discussions with the party’s National Committee at which, depending on which version of events you choose to believe, the National Committee either voted to let Barnbrook join the party as a London Assembly Member, subject to further discussions with the London Committee or merely decided to allow Barnbrook to have further discussions with the London Committee without taking a view of own on his suitability.

Irrespective of the exact circumstances in which Barnbrook didn’t end up joining the EDP, the only element of Wonko’s post that Tilbrook identified as being – in his opinion – defamatory was the parting shot – “English Democrats: not left, not right, just racist.” – although its also worth noting that Tilbrook does not appear to have had anything specific to say on the subject of Eddy Butler joining the EDP.

In this, Tilbrook’s argument – if that’s the right word – is simply that by referring to the English Democrats as racist, Wonko was ‘by necessary implication’ labelling him – and, by extension, any other publicly identified officers of the EDP – as a racist, an argument that Tugenhadt rejected, leading him to the following conclusion…

It is for the reasons given in this judgment that I held that the words complained of are not capable of referring to the Claimant. Since this judgment turns entirely on the law of defamation where the words complained of do not refer to any particular individual amongst a group or class, it follows that the fact that the Claimant has failed at this stage implies nothing adverse to his reputation.

Although I can’t help but think that that last sentence may be a tad over optimistic. It’s certainly true that one cannot reasonably make any adverse inferences in regards to Tilbrook’s attitude towards persons whose ethnicity differs from his own on the basis of the failure of his claim but one certainly be forgiven – after reading the basis on which the claim was made in the first place – for taking a dim of the extent to which he appears to be prepared to resort to legal thuggery and intimidation in order to pursue his political objective and silence his critics.

Again, what we have here is yet another example of the urgent need for reform of English Libel Law.

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  • Michaelxxbrown

    Rather than “yet another example of the urgent need for reform of English Libel Law” isn’t this an example of English Libel Law working quite well? A low value claim struck out at an early stage without an expensive trial.The only reform which could prevent this is the abolition of libel as a cause of action altogether.

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  • JamieEngland

    Good article, worth a reblog with all credits to author and blog of course.

  • The description of Beckett above is very odd. He wasn’t standing up to autocracy. He was insisting that clerics be immune from civil law which, since the contrast then was with clerical law, included what are now criminal offences including murder. The Irish Church was channelling Beckett when they covered up child abuse for decades – refusing the secular authorities’ jurisdiction. What’s more, Henry tried really hard to compromise, not least at Clarendon and Westminster, and it was Beckett who refused to bend.