Archive for June 2010
Burundi’s brutal government has been heavily bankrolled by the European Union for years, with donors falling over themselves to applaud their “African success story”. Complaints by Burundians of corruption and authoritarian behaviour by the ruling elite have been largely ignored. Now we’re seeing the results…
Via Jack of Kent
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE
QUEEN’S BENCH DIVISION
B E T W E E N
- and –
(1) COMMISSIONER FOR THE METROPOLITAN POLICE SERVICE
(2) BARONESS BUSCOMBE
(3) PRESS COMPLAINTS COMMISSION
PARTICULARS OF CLAIM
1. The Claimant is a solicitor.
2. The First Defendant is responsible for the Metropolitan Police Service (“MPS”).
3. The Second Defendant is employed as the Chairman of the Third Defendant.
4. The Third Defendant is a regulatory body for British newspapers and magazines.
5. At all material times the Second Defendant was acting in the course of her employment with the Third Defendant.
6. The Claimant acted as solicitor to Gordon Taylor and Joanne Armstrong, the Professional Footballers’ Association’s (“PFA”) Chief Executive and Legal Advisor and one other person (whose name remains confidential) in an action against News Group Newspapers (“NGN”) in regard to the hacking of mobile telephone messages by employees and/or agents of the News of the World (a newspaper owned by NGN).
7. In 2006 the MPS launched an investigation into the activities of Glenn Mulcaire, a private detective retained by the News of the World, and Clive Goodman, who was employed as the News of the World’s Royal Correspondent. The investigation discovered that Mr Mulcaire had improperly obtained the pin number required to access messages left on Mr Taylor’s mobile telephone voicemail. Mr Mulcaire used this pin number in order to retrieve voicemail messages left for Mr Taylor, thus breaching not only Mr Taylor’s confidence but also the confidence of the numerous persons who left messages for him, including Ms Armstrong.
8. On 26 November 2006 both Mr Mulcaire and Mr Goodman pleaded guilty to conspiracy to intercept communications, contrary to section 1(1) of the Criminal Law Act 1977. The interceptions were of messages left for three members of the Royal Household.
9. Mr Mulcaire also pleaded guilty to five additional counts concerning the unlawful interception of the communications of figures with no connection with the Royal Household (and therefore having no connection with Mr Goodman’s work as a royal correspondent): Max Clifford, Skylet Andrew, Gordon Taylor, Simon Hughes MP and Elle Macpherson. Mr Goodman was not charged with these five offences. They related to interceptions carried out for a person or persons unknown at the News of the World.
10. In 2007 the Third Defendant conducted an investigation into the Mulcaire/Goodman scandal. It published a report entitled: PCC Report on Subterfuge and Newsgathering. During its investigation it posed a number of questions to Colin Myler, who had replaced Andy Coulson following his resignation as the News of the World’s editor, and Les Hinton, the Chief Executive of News International (the News of the World’s ultimate owner). At paragraph 6.3 the report concluded that:
No evidence has emerged either from the legal proceedings or the Commission’s questions to Mr Myler and Mr Hinton of a conspiracy at the newspaper going beyond Messrs Goodman and Mulcaire to subvert the law and the PCC’s Code of Practice. There is no evidence to challenge Mr Myler’s assertion that: Goodman had deceived his employer in order to obtain cash to pay Mulcaire; that he had concealed the identity of the source of information on royal stories; and that no-one else at the News of the World knew that Messrs Goodman and Mulcaire were tapping phone messages for stories.
11. On 6 March 2007 Mr Hinton gave evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport Parliamentary Select Committee (“the Select Committee”). He reported that Mr Myler had told the Third Defendant 12 days earlier that Mr Goodman’s telephone hacking was “aberrational”, “a rogue exception”.
12. On 18 November 2008 the Select Committee commenced an investigation into press standards, privacy and libel. It investigated the News of the World’s involvement in the Mulcaire/Goodman telephone hacking scandal.
13. On 8 July 2009 The Guardian published an article by Nick Davies: Trail of hacking and deceit under nose of Tory PR chief. This concerned allegations that Mr Mulcaire’s actions had not been “aberrational” but that telephone hacking had been widely used by the News of the World in order illicitly to secure information. This article was followed up by one published on 9 July 2009: Revealed: Murdoch’s £1m bill for hiding dirty tricks. This stated that the PCC had been misled when it had been told by News International that Mr Mulcaire’s activities were “aberrational”.
14. As a consequence of the allegations made in The Guardian, on 9 July 2009 the Third Defendant commenced an investigation as to whether it had been misled in 2007. This investigation was independent from that being conducted by the Select Committee.
15. On 2 September 2009 the Claimant gave evidence to the Select Committee. He reported that whilst conducting Mr Taylor’s claim he had attended court in order to make an application for the disclosure of documents from the MPS. Whilst outside court he had a conversation with Detective Sergeant Mark Maberly, who was attending on behalf of the MPS. The Claimant’s evidence to the Select Committee was that:
DS Mark Maberly said to me: “You are not having everything but we will give you enough on Taylor to hang them.” Those were his words: “to hang them”. . . He also mentioned the number of people whose phones had been hacked. Whether that was an aside . . . but they said that there was evidence about, or they had found there were something like 6,000 people who were involved. It was not clear to me whether that was 6,000 phones which had been hacked or 6,000 people including the people who had left messages.
16. The Claimant’s evidence was published and attributed to him by name as follows:
16.1. it was broadcast live via Parliament’s website where a video recording and transcript of the relevant evidence was also published one or two days after the evidence was given. This material continues to be published on this website [From 16:44];
16.2. it was reported upon by The Guardian in an article entitled PCC finds no evidence that it was misled in phone hacking inquiry. The article was first published on 9 November 2009 and has continuously been published on The Guardian website since; and
16.3. it was published by the Third Defendant on 7 November 2009 in paragraph 11.1 of the PCC report on phone message tapping allegations (see paragraph 19 below), which has been published on the Third Defendant’s website since that date.
17. The Claimant’s evidence became widely known to journalists and to those who were interested in the telephone hacking controversy.
18. Immediately prior to the Claimant’s evidence to the Select Committee, Assistant Commissioner John Yates and Detective Chief Superintendent Philip Williams gave evidence to it in regard to the MPS investigation into telephone hacking by Mulcaire and Goodman. The Select Committee made it clear that it believed that the investigation had not been properly conducted by the MPS because it had failed to investigate the extent of the News of the World’s involvement in telephone hacking.
19. On 7 November 2009 the Third Defendant published the conclusions which it had reached as a result of the investigation which it had commenced on 9 July 2009: PCC report on phone message tapping allegations. At paragraph 13.2 it concluded that no evidence had emerged since its 2007 report which indicated that the practice of telephone tapping was engaged in by anyone other than Mulcaire and Goodman or that News of the World executives knew about those activities.
20. The PCC report on phone message tapping allegations was publicly derided:
20.1. Adam Price, a Plaid Cymru MP and member of the Select Committee stated: “I think it would be depressing if this PCC report was perceived by the public as a closing of the ranks within the industry.”; “I think the Guardian really was right to publish its story, was right to raise these questions. And I think it would be a shame if this report was in any way, shape or form interpreted as a slap across the wrists of the Guardian, which I think was raising legitimate questions.”; and that the Select Committee’s forthcoming report “would be able to give a fuller picture of the context of this story”.
20.2. Labour MP Paul Farrelly, a member of the Select Committee, described the PCC report as a “whitewash” and stated that “We (which in context meant the Select Committee) are seriously concerned about the effectiveness of the PCC and self-regulation in the industry,” He also said. “Any whitewash thrown over these events by the regulator will only heighten concerns that will be explored in our report.”
20.3. The above statements received substantial publicity in The Guardian, which also criticised the PCC report on phone message tapping allegations and the Third Defendant.
(I) PUBLICATION BY THE FIRST DEFENDANT
21. On 30 September 2009 Tim Toulmin, a director of the PCC, emailed DI Maberly (who had been promoted since the conversation with the Claimant had taken place). Mr Toulmin stated that whilst the Claimant had indicated to the Select Committee that DI Maberly had told him that “6,000 people were involved in the practice” of “phone message tapping at the News of the World”, John Yates and Andy Hayman (who had given evidence to the Committee on behalf of the MPS) had indicated that “only a handful of people were involved.” Mr Toulmin asked for an indication of the scale of the interceptions.
22. Emma Harraway of the MPS’ Directorate of Legal Services took instructions from DI Maberly. On 9 November 2009 she replied by letter on behalf of the First Defendant that DI Maberly had been “wrongly quoted” by the Claimant. She stated that the correct position was set out in the evidence of Assistant Commissioner John Yates and DCS Philip Williams given to the Select Committee.
23. On 11 November 2009 Mr Toulmin responded to Ms Harraway by email, asking if the correct position was that: “the suggestion that DI Mark Maberly claimed 6000 people were involved in the unlawful practice is wrong.” Ms Harraway responded by email at 16.10. This email included the following words which defamed the Claimant:
Your understanding is correct that DI Maberly has been wrongly quoted, and that you should rely on what Assistant Commissioner Yates and DCS Williams told the Select Committee.
24. In their natural and ordinary meaning or in their innuendo meaning the words complained of meant and were understood to mean that:
The Claimant lied to the Parliamentary Select Committee about what he had been told by Detective Inspector Maberly.
Particular of innuendo
25. The context in which the words complained of were published was provided by those communications set out in paragraphs 21 and 22 above. Given that it had been stated in the correspondence that the MPS case was that there had been a handful of interceptions, the only explanation for the Claimant’s allegation that he had been told by the MPS that 6,000 persons had been involved in phone hacking was that he had invented that figure.
(II) PUBLICATIONS BY THE SECOND AND THIRD DEFENDANTS
(1) The statement
26. On the 15 November 2009 the Second Defendant, acting in her capacity as the Chairman of the Third Defendant, issued a statement to the Society of Editors Annual Conference at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Stansted (“the conference/the statement”). It was published directly by the Second and Third Defendants in the following ways:
26.1. written copies were distributed at the conference;
26.2. it was published orally by the Second Defendant at the conference. The audience included journalists who were reporting upon rather than participating in the conference;
26.3. it was published on the Third Defendant’s website from that date forward; and
26.4. it is to be inferred that the Third Defendant also published it directly to newspapers, magazines and broadcasters as part of a press release or by other means (as was the case with the Second Defendant’s speech to the conference).
27. The statement contained the following words defamatory of the Claimant:
I would like to use this opportunity to say something on a subject that I know has been of great interest to some in the media and politics.
Last week, the PCC published a report following allegations we were misled by the News of the World during an inquiry we conducted in 2007 into how the phone message hacking situation involving Glenn Mulcaire and Clive Goodman could have arisen.
Having reviewed all of the information available, we concluded that we were not materially misled.
While most people seemed to understand our reasons, one or two were less sure. I have chosen not to debate those matters in public, because our report speaks for itself.
But new evidence has come to light.
Those of you who are familiar with the case will recall the significance that was attached to the apparent evidence of a then Detective Sergeant from the Metropolitan Police called Mark Maberly. It was he who was alleged to have said that around 6,000 people had had their phone messages hacked or intercepted.
The allegation was made in oral evidence to the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport, and has also been published in the press. It was repeated just last Monday in some coverage questioning our report.
Since the publication of our report last Monday, the PCC has heard from Detective Inspector (as he now is) Maberly through lawyers for the Metropolitan Police.
This letter says that Mr Maberly has in fact been wrongly quoted on the 6,000 figure. The reliable evidence, we were told in an e-mail confirming the contents of the letter, is that given by Assistant Commissioner John Yates to the Select Committee, who referred to only a “handful” of people being potential victims.
In light of this, I am doing two things.
First, I am of course putting this new evidence to my colleagues in the Press Complaints Commission, because they will want to update our report to take account of this development.
Second, I have just spoken to the Chairman of the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport, John Whittingdale, to draw this to his attention. Any suggestion that a Parliamentary Inquiry has been misled is of course an extremely serious matter.
28. Furthermore, after reading the statement the Second Defendant answered questions from journalists. She was asked by Chris Tryhorn, a reporter acting on behalf of Media Guardian, whether the letter from the MPS “had effectively withdrawn Maberly’s evidence”. She replied:
Maberly has been wrongly quoted in saying that 6,000 people were involved. He didn’t say it. He is said to have said it.
29. A substantial number of those persons who read or listened to the words complained of would have known that the Claimant was the person referred to as having given evidence to the effect that 6,000 persons were involved in telephone hacking. Paragraphs 16 to 16.3 above are repeated.
30. In their natural and ordinary meaning the words set out in paragraph 27 above meant and were intended to mean that:
The Claimant lied to the Parliamentary Select Committee about what he had been told by Detective Inspector Maberly.
31. In their natural and ordinary meaning the words set out in paragraphs 27 and 28 (i.e. the slander, the reading out of the statement followed by the Second Defendant’s answer to the Mr Tryhorn’s question) meant and were intended to mean that:
The Claimant lied to the Parliamentary Select Committee about what he had been told by Detective Inspector Maberly.
32. The words complained of were calculated to cause harm to the Claimant in his profession as a solicitor. A solicitor cannot properly practise unless he is a fit and proper person. In litigation, it is crucial that a solicitor’s statement of truth is accepted at face value.
33. The Second and Third Defendants knew and intended that the statement and any words added orally at the conference would be republished in the media:
33.1. The issue of telephone hacking by the News of the World was a matter of huge public interest.
33.2. The Second and Third Defendants intended to undermine the recent criticisms of the Third Defendant (and by implication the Second Defendant) by publishing the defamatory words set out above. The criticisms which they were seeking to undermine are outlined in paragraphs 20 to 20.3 above.
34. Alternatively it was reasonably foreseeable that the statement would be republished in the media.
(1) The Society of Editors website
35. On or shortly after 15 November 2009 the Second and Third Defendants caused a copy of the statement to be published in full on the website of the Society of Editors, where it continues to be published. A video recording of the statement was also published on the same website from or shortly after 15 November 2009 to a date which is currently unknown.
36. A substantial number of those persons who read or listened to the words complained of would have known that the Claimant was the person referred to as having given evidence to the effect that 6,000 persons were involved in telephone hacking:
36.1. Paragraphs 16 to 16.3 above are repeated.
36.2. In Police lawyers deny 6,000 people had phones hacked, an article written by Andrew Woodcock, the Press Association’s Chief Political Correspondent, which was published from 15 November 2009 onwards on the Society of Editors website, the Claimant was identified by name as the person who had given the evidence as to what DI Maberly had told him.
37. In their natural and ordinary meaning the words set out in paragraph 27 above meant and were intended to mean that:
38. The Second and Third Defendants caused an article with the headline Report by Alexandra Fletcher and Adam Thorn to be published on the website of the Society of Editors from 15 November 2009 or shortly afterwards, where it continues to be published. This report included the following words which defamed the Claimant:
The SOE Lecture 2009
Baroness Buscombe, Chairman of the Press Complaints Commission
Chaired by Nigel Pickover, President, Society of Editors
. . .
Read the full text of Baroness Buscombe’s speech here (Word format)
Read Baroness Buscombe’s statement on new evidence in the phone message hacking episode (Word format)
Report by Alexandra Fletcher and Adam Thorn
The chair of the Press Complaints Commission dealt a blow to allegations of widespread phone tapping by the News of the World on Sunday when she revealed a key witness was misquoted.
Addressing the annual conference of the Society of Editors, Baroness Buscombe revealed that then Detective Sergeant Mark Maberly’s evidence related to only a handful of potential victims – and not the 6,000 quoted in some news reports.
She said lawyers for the Metropolitan Police this week contacted the PCC with the new revelations, which have now been passed on to the John Whittingdale, chair of the Commons Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport, which is investigating allegations that News of the World staff routinely hacked into text messages in pursuit of stories.
The allegation about Maberley saying there were thousands of possible victims ‘’was made in oral evidence to the Select Committee … and has also been published in the press,” the baroness said. This week’s letter from the Metropolitan Police lawyers “says that Mr Maberly has in fact been wrongly quoted on the 6,000 figure. The reliable evidence, we were told in an email confirming the contents of the letter, is that given by Assistant Commissioner John Yates to the Select Committee, who referred to only a ‘handful’ of people being potential victims.”
Buscombe said she would be putting this new evidence to her colleagues on the Press Complaints Commission, ‘’because they will want to update our report to take account of this development.’’ A recent PCC report concluded that the body had not been misled about the allegations.
She added that she had already told Whittingdale about the new evidence. “Any suggestion that a Parliamentary Inquiry has been misled is of course an extremely serious matter.”
. . .
Chris Tryhorn, a reporter from the Media Guardian, which first reported the phone tapping allegations, asked Buscombe whether the letter from the Metropolitan Police had effectively withdrawn Maberly’s evidence. Buscombe replied that Maberly: “has been wrongly quoted in saying that 6,000 people were involved. He didn’t say it. He is said to have said it.”
39. The particulars of reference set out at paragraphs 36 to 36.2 are repeated.
40. In their natural and ordinary meaning the words set out in paragraph 38 above meant and were intended to mean that:
The Claimant lied to the Parliamentary Select Committee about what he had been told by Detective Sergeant Maberly.
(2) The Independent
41. On 16 November 2009 the Second and Third Defendants caused a report of the statement to be published in the print edition of The Independent and from that day forward on its website. It contained the following words which defamed the Claimant:
Parliamentary inquiry misled on phone hacks
Detective denies saying messages to 6,000 people were intercepted
A parliamentary inquiry into phone hacking by tabloid journalists may have been seriously misled, it emerged yesterday when lawyers acting for a Scotland Yard detective denied that he had ever claimed that messages to 6,000 people had been intercepted.
The chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, Baroness Buscombe, said that she had been written to by the Metropolitan Police lawyers acting for Detective Inspector Mark Maberly, who, according to evidence given to the House of Commons Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport, had said that 6,000 people were victims of a culture of phone hacking at the News of the World, Britain’s biggest-selling Sunday tabloid. Baroness Buscombe was told that DI Maberly had “been wrongly quoted”. The police lawyers told her that the “reliable evidence” given to the committee was from Assistant Commissioner John Yates, who had said that only a “handful” of people were targeted.
“I have just spoken to the Chairman of the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport, John Whittingdale, to draw this to his attention,” Baroness Buscombe was expected to tell the annual Society of Editors conference last night.
“Any suggestion that a Parliamentary Inquiry has been misled is an extremely serious matter.”
42. A substantial number of those persons who read or listened to the words complained of would have known that the Claimant was the person referred to as having given evidence to the effect that 6,000 persons were involved in telephone hacking. Paragraphs 16 to 16.3 above are repeated.
43. In their natural and ordinary meaning the words set out in paragraph 35 above meant and were intended to mean that:
(3) Press Gazette
44. On 16 November 2009 the Second and Third Defendants caused a copy of the statement and a report of it to be published on the Press Gazette website, where they are still being published.
45. The Press Gazette’s report contained the following words which defamed the Claimant:
Buscombe: Police lawyers deny 6,000 phones hacked
The Commons’ inquiry looking into allegations of phone hacking by journalists may have been misled it emerged last night as Metropolitan Police lawyers acting for a senior officer on the force investigating reporters at the News of the World denied he had ever claimed 6,000 calls had been intercepted.
In a letter to the Press Complaints Commission, police lawyers said that evidence suggested only “a handful” of people were targeted rather than the thousands that were claimed in recent evidence given to the Commons’ Select Committee examining alleged phone-hacking.
PCC chairman, Baroness Buscombe, revealed the existence of the letter to delegates after her opening address to the Society of Editors conference, at Stansted, last night.
Baroness Buscombe said: “The PCC has heard from Detective Inspector – as he now is – Maberly through lawyers for the Metropolitan Police.
“This letter says that Mr Maberly has in fact been wrongly quoted on the 6,000 figure. The reliable evidence, we were told in an email confirming the contents of the letter, is that given by Assistant Commissioner John Yates to the Select Committee, who referred to only a ‘handful’ of people being potential victims.”
Evidence of phone hacking first emerged in 2007, when former News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman and private investigator Glen Mulcaire were jailed for eavesdropping on royal aides and celebrities.
The News of the World then told a PCC inquiry that no one else at the paper was involved.
The inquiry’s findings were reviewed earlier this year after reports in The Guardian suggested that the practice was more widespread at the Sunday tabloid than previously believed.
In a report published last week, the PCC said it had found no evidence that it was misled by the News of the World in the original inquiry.
The PCC report was then criticised by a number of MPs, calling it a “whitewash”, and by Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger who said it was “worse than pointless”.
Last night Buscombe said the commission would update its report in the light of the new information supplied to it about the evidence presented to the CMSC last month by solicitor Mark Lewis.
Lewis told the committee that he had been informed by Maberly that “they had found there were something like 6,000 people who were involved.”
“It was not clear to me whether that was 6,000 phones which had been hacked, or 6,000 people including the people who had left messages.”
Buscombe told delegates: “In light of this [lawyers’ letter], I am doing two things.
“First, I am of course putting this new evidence to my colleagues on the Press Complaints Commission, because they will want to update our report to take account of this development.
“Second, I have just spoken to the chairman of the select committee on Culture, Media and Sport, John Whittingdale, to draw this to his attention. Any suggestion that a Parliamentary Inquiry has been misled is of course an extremely serious matter.”
46. In their natural and ordinary meaning the words set out in the republication of the statement and in the words set out immediately above meant and were intended to mean that:
47. The Claimant was motivated by a strong sense of public duty in giving evidence to the Select Committee. He believed that his evidence would contribute important information to its investigation into the telephone hacking affair. The fact that in return for performing a public duty he has been so seriously libelled by the Defendants, all whom hold very senior positions in society, has contributed very greatly to his sense of injustice.
48. The distress caused to the Claimant by the First Defendant’s publication was aggravated because:
48.1. DI Maberly falsely denied the Claimant’s account of their conversation.
48.2. During the Mulcaire/Goodman investigation the MPS had seen or had taken into its possession documents which indicated that the number of potential victims of phone hacking carried out by Mr Mulcaire on behalf of the News of the World was substantial, running into the thousands. At the very least this evidence made it clear that the number involved far exceeded a “handful” (which term had been intended to mean and did mean no more than five or ten).
48.3. It is to be inferred that before Emma Harraway published the words complained of, she consulted not just with DI Maberly but also with senior officers who had been responsible for the Goodman/Mulcaire investigation. Those officers knew, by reason of the material referred to in the preceding paragraph, that it was far more likely that DI Maberly had referred to thousands rather than a “handful” of persons as potential victims of telephone hacking.
48.4. By these deceptions the employees and/or officers of the MPS who were involved in passing the relevant information to the Third Defendant cynically and untruthfully set out to undermine criticisms that had been made of the MPS, most notably by the Select Committee, for failing properly to investigate the true extent of the News of the World’s telephone hacking activities. Paragraph 18 above is repeated.
Second and Third Defendants
49. The distress caused to the Claimant by the publications brought about by the Second and Third Defendants was aggravated because:
49.1. Prior to making the statement, neither the Second nor the Third Defendant contacted the Claimant to inform him that DI Maberly had denied saying words to the effect set out in the Claimant’s evidence to the Select Committee.
49.2. The failure to contact the Claimant prior to publication was in breach of the Third Defendant’s own Code of Conduct regarding the obligation of the press not to “publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information”. In its guidance to observing the code, the Third Defendant stresses that certain steps prior to publication are important in observing this rule, most particularly giving a “likely complainant . . . an adequate opportunity to respond”.
49.3. In not contacting the Claimant prior to publication the Second and Third Defendants have not only acted with gross unfairness but also hypocritically.
49.4. The Second and Third Defendants cynically chose to promulgate the self-serving statement issued by the MPS because it also served their self-interest in heading off criticism of the Third Defendant’s telephone hacking investigation. Paragraphs 20 to 20.3 above are repeated.
49.5. The Second and Third Defendants disregarded the obvious fact that the Claimant had no motive to fabricate the evidence which he gave to the Select Committee whereas it was likely (and was the case) that the First Defendant was motivated by a desire to undermine criticism of its failure properly to investigate the true extent of the News of the World’s phone hacking activities.
49.6. It was particularly spiteful to engage in the publicity stunt of publishing to the world at large the fact that the Second Defendant had written to the Chairman of the Select Committee in order to report that the Claimant had misled it.
50. In all the premises, the Defendants demonstrated a callous contempt for the Claimant’s dignity, reputation and feelings.
51. Unless restrained by this Honourable Court the Defendants will further publish or cause to be published the said or similar words defamatory of the Claimant.
AND the Claimant claims:
(1) Damages for libel, including aggravated damages;
(2) An injunction to restrain the Defendants, whether by themselves, their servants or agents or otherwise howsoever, from further publishing or causing or permitting the publication of the words complained of or of any similar words defamatory of the Claimant.
Rightly or wrongly, Rwanda’s de facto one-party state has a reputation for brutality and lawlessness, and this latest episode will only increase it.
Lt Gen Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, a critic of Rwanda’s president, remains in a critical condition after being shot outside his Johannesburg home.
Rosette Nyamwasa said it was an assassination attempt as the lone gunman had made no demand for money or goods before shooting her husband.
Rwanda’s government denies the claim, saying it does not condone violence.
Lt Gen Nyamwasa was shot in the stomach and has been undergoing surgery in a Johannesburg clinic.
BBC Africa analyst Martin Plaut says that since leaving Kigali in February, Lt Gen Nyamwasa had been a thorn in the flesh of President Paul Kagame, whom he accuses of corruption
Once a close ally of Paul Kagame, and a senior figure within the RPF forces which defeated the genocidal government of 1994 (whilst also committing a series of atrocities in their own right), Nyamwasa recently fled the country and became a vocal critic of Kagame’s harsh, authoritarian rule.
Kagame gets an extraordinarily good write-up in the British and US media, which I find surprising given his government’s track record since 1994. More than five million people are believed to have died in the vicious resource war in the Democratic Republic of Congo – a war in which Kagame and his forces are deeply implicated. The press in Rwanda is very tightly controlled, and it is difficult for any genuinely independent opposition party to operate freely. During Kagame’s time in power, a number of his critics have been murdered overseas, and many others inside Rwanda have been killed or “disappeared”.
Britain is one of Rwanda’s most generous international donors, and we have also supplied military support. During his time as Rwandan army chief, Kayumba Nyamwasa visited the UK for military training – I know this because I met him briefly during such a visit in 2001 and he talked about it.
I hope that Kayumba makes a good recovery. I can’t imagine that South Africa – another key UK ally in the region – will take kindly to terrorist attacks being carried out on their territory. Rwanda will, of course, deny all responsibility, but they do have form in this area. According to Kayumba’s wife, Rosette Nyamwasa:
“[Mr Kagame] said it in parliament that he will actually kill my husband, that wherever he is he will follow him and kill him,”
A rethink of the UK’s relationship with this dubious regime seems long overdue…
While accident and emergency services face cuts,
frivolous libel cases receive a generous subsidy
The endemic abuse of the UK’s dysfunctional libel system to suppress inconvenient scientific evidence is now widely understood to be a threat to public health.
The enormous fees that libel lawyers are able to charge mean that a defendant can face crippling, unrecoverable costs even if they win their case. The situation is now so bad that the media is routinely exercising self-consorship over contentious public health issues rather than face the risk of legal action.
But there is another issue here, which has also has serious implications for public welfare, and which merits more scrutiny. While the claimant and defendant in a libel case have to foot the bill for their respective lawyer’s legal fees (with the majority of the costs typically falling on whoever loses the case), there are many other costs involved in a case – from the judge’s salary to the cost of heating and lighting the courtroom – that they never have to worry about.
These “invisible” costs are generously met by the UK state, using money from taxpayers that many of us might prefer to be put towards a more worthy cause – saving our local accident and emergency unit from closure, reducing class sizes in an inner city school, providing better equipment for our armed forces, or simply returning the money to taxpayers so they can decide for themselves how to spend it.
A typical salary for a High Court judge is in the region of £172,000. If the judge works for five days a week, 46 weeks of the year, this would equate to a rate of more than £740 per day. The judge is supported, in turn, by a whole team of clerks and other administrative staff. The court room itself must be kept warm, clean, and in good repair. Meticulous records must be kept of the court proceedings, with those records being filed and maintained for many years afterwards.
Without all of these “invisible” costs being met, there would simply be no lucrative court case for libel firms like Carter Ruck and Schillings to cash in on. So what’s actually happening here is that the UK taxpayer is indirectly subsidising the libel industry.
So what kind of cases are we subsidising? Well there’s the tennis player who sued the Daily Telegraph (unsuccessfully) for calling him the “world’s worst tennis pro”. There’s the Icelandic professor who got sued in the UK courts over a comment posted on the website of the University of Iceland. There’s the Ukrainian businessman who sued a Ukrainian news website in the UK courts over comments made on that website, in Ukrainian. There’s the now-notorious failed libel action by the British Chiropractic Association against science writer Simon Singh over his criticism of their scientific claims. There’s the two-year (and also famously unsuccessful) libel case by the blogger Joanna Kaschke against another blogger, Dave Osler, which was thrown out after two years on the basis that there was actually no case to answer. There’s the defamation case brought by John Bridle against the Health and Safety Executive, over comments allegedly made over the phone by an HSE inspector – the case was also thrown out (after much deliberation), with the court ruling that Bridle had been pursuing a “vendetta” against the HSE.
On top of the considerable costs imposed on the defendant, all of these cases required a hefty subsidy from the taxpayer in the form of court staff time and other administrative expenses – while (in most cases) the claimant’s law firm raked in the profits. It’s difficult to put a precise figure on how much money we are wasting each year on frivolous or trivial defamation cases like these – but it’s easy to think of better ways that this cash could be used.
Lies in the name of “peace”? Opposition fears a stitch-up as European Union agrees to validate Burundian elections despite killings and voting irregularities
One of the most shocking NGO rumours I’ve heard in recent years was that UN observers in a South Asian country were willing to certify an election as legitimate not because it actually was free and fair, but because they feared that acknowledging the full extent of voting irregularities could plunge the country back into civil war.
Now there are fears in Burundi that the European Union – which has invested heavily in the “Burundian success story” narrative – may be trying something similar, following the first round of this year’s national elections.
In the run-up to May’s polling, dozens of opposition activists were murdered, and many others harassed and threatened by the security services, while the ruling party CNDD-FDD mobilised its youth militia to intimidate voters. When the respected monitoring group Human Rights Watch highlighted the extent of abuses, the Burundian government responded by expelling the HRW researcher from the country.
Now, amid serious concern about the legitimacy of the first round of elections, 13 opposition parties are boycotting the next rounds until they receive credible guarantees that the polls will be properly managed and monitored. Yet rather than address this issue directly, the Burundian government’s international sponsors appear to be holding to the line that the vote was fair, and are now pressurising the opposition to take part in further elections which they fear will be rigged.
Contacts of mine in Burundi tell me they are worried that the international community, in its eagerness to support the “success story”, is turning a blind eye to evidence of serious irregularities.
“It is normal after an election to hear some actors who do not want to recognize or accept the result of an election”, one EU official, Renate Weber, is quoted as saying to VOA news, before urging the opposition to address any concerns by filing a complaint with the same state authorities who have been killing and arresting their supporters.
One of the opposition figures rejecting the poll results is Alexis Sinduhije, a man who has been beaten, threatened, harassed, and served time in jail for his willingness to speak openly and honestly about the situation in his country. For the moment at least, I would attach more credence to his analysis of the situation than the opinions of some comfortable, generously paid, European Union official.
This from the CV of the new UKIP deputy leader, Lord Monckton, as published on the UKIP website:
2008-present: RESURREXI Pharmaceutical: Director responsible for invention and development of a broad-spectrum cure for infectious diseases. Patents have now been filed. Patients have been cured of various infectious diseases, including Graves’ Disease, multiple sclerosis, influenza, and herpes simplex VI. Our first HIV patient had his viral titre reduced by 38% in five days, with no side-effects. Tests continue.
Speculation abounds that the UKIP website must have been hacked by satirists. In the absence of very strong medical evidence it would be absurd to claim to have cured a major life-limiting illness like multiple sclerosis (for which mainstream science currently offers no cure) or to treat HIV infection – another enormously complex, incurable, and often fatal condition.
Eye-catching, yet unsubstantiated healing claims have been the hallmark of cranks and mystics through the ages. How better to discredit the UK Independence Party than to hack into their website and make it look as if their new deputy leader holds such outlandish beliefs?
Rationalwiki has more on the wider issues raised here…
UPDATE – Apparently a company matching the name of “Resurrexi” does exist on Companies House – (HT Tracy King), registered to the office of a chartered accountancy firm in Pitlochray, Perthshire (Klaus Martin Schulte, another well-known critic of climate change science, is listed as a co-director). These UKIP-hating spoofers have really gone to enormous lengths…
UPDATE 2 – George Monbiot reports that, bizarrely, Monckton is seeking to get a US scientist hauled before an academic panel on charges of “gross professional misconduct”, for saying things about him that weren’t satirical and were based on good evidence.
Interestingly, Monkton himself has previously admitted making false claims for marketing purposes, commenting at the time that “History is full of stories that aren’t actually true”.
PA News has become the first UK media outlet to make any reference to allegations – widely reported in the Netherlands and elsewhere – that the controversial oil trade Trafigura bribed a number of witnesses to the Probo Koala toxic waste incident. PA is a syndicated newswire whose stories are normally picked up and republished by media across the UK – so it will be interesting to see if that happens in this case.
(Special mention should also go to the Daily Telegraph, who in a welcome break from their more usual slavish parroting of corporate pseudo-science have gone further than any other UK media outlet in reporting the full background to the case.)
From the Press Association newswire:
Green Party MP Caroline Lucas has called on the Government to launch a “full inquiry” into allegations of illegal toxic waste dumping by a British-based oil trading firm.
Ms Lucas said the full details of allegations against Trafigura – which is facing criminal charges in the Netherlands – were not being fully reported because of the “chilling effect” of UK libel laws.
She urged the Government to investigate claims “that UK nationals and UK firms may have been involved in illegal waste shipments and a subsequent cover-up and that payments were made to truck drivers in return for favourable witness statements”.
In a Commons motion, the Brighton Pavilion MP also asked ministers to review libel laws “to ensure that this matter can be fully reported in the UK”.
Trafigura hit the headlines last year when The Guardian claimed it had been prevented from reporting a parliamentary question relating to the firm because of a legal order obtained by lawyers Carter Ruck – despite such questions being protected by privilege.
The row led then justice secretary Jack Straw to review the use of so-called “super-injunctions”, which not only ban reporting of a story but also of the existence of the ban itself.
A confidential settlement of the largest-ever group action was reached in London last September over the alleged dumping of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast.
The claims were launched against Trafigura following an August 2006 incident when thousands claimed they fell ill after “slops” were deposited near Abidjan, the African country’s commercial capital, from the Probo Koala, a ship hired by the firm.
Trafigura said it regretted the incident but did not accept legal liability as the dumping was carried out by a ship contractor which acted independently of, and without any authority from, Trafigura.
The motion from Ms Lucas – the Green Party’s first MP – “calls on the Government to launch a full inquiry into the allegations against Trafigura” in the light of fresh legal proceedings in the Netherlands which began last month.