Alex Hilton (right) was Labour’s candidate in Kensington and Chelsea at the General election and brought many a smile to my face with his legendary Recess Monkey blog, now sadly defunct.
The other defendant is John Gray. I am a big fan of John Gray, and was delighted to see him elected in May as a Newham councillor. I’ve posted previously on John here. He’s an activist in my union UNISON and I had dinner with him at Annual Conference last year, so I don’t pretend that I’m not biased – I heartily recommend John’s blog.
They have both been accused of libel by a Conservative woman in Tower Hamlets, Joanna Kaschke.
“This Friday 9th July, my three year litigation comes to a head with a pre-trial review at which John Gray and I are seeking the case to be struck out as an abuse of process. If you can get to the Court your moral support will be deeply welcome. The whole thing’s a pretty traumatic experience for us. Just get into the High Court and ask for the Kaschke vs Gray and Hilton case and they’ll direct you. If not, please join us afterwards – from 5pm – for freedom of speech drinks at The George Pub on the Strand, just opposite the High Court.
“Oh, and why am I in court? I run a website called Labourhome.org which, just like facebook, lets anyone write anything without editorial interference. Somebody wrote something that I never even saw at the time, which upset the subject of the piece, Ms Johanna Kaschke. My defence is
1. It’s either true or so near the truth that there’s no reputational damage
2. she consented to public discussion by putting similar material on her own website first.
3. What she has said about herself is so similar to what was written on Labourhome that there’s no reputational damage.
4. I deleted the piece as soon as I knew about it and offered her a prominent space on the site for a retraction.
5. Under the e-commerce directive I was operating an automated service and I am therefore protected against liability.
“Libel and defamation need reform. They are occupational hazards for bloggers. I have received several letters from solicitors and had to stand up to them. Some I publicise on this blog. Others I deal with privately. For some reason I seem to attract attention from self important men who don’t like it when I stand up for women, can’t think why? I have seen women with excellent cases destroyed by expensive lawyers who use technicalities and the sheer weight of procedures to win. I think it is beholden to elected representatives to take a stand. Alex and John are taking a stand for free speech. Ms. Kaschke also sued Labour blogger Dave Osler and lost.”