Rachel Riley WINS libel battle: Star is awarded £10,000 damages

Rachel Riley WINS libel battle: Star is awarded £10,000 damages after she sued ex-Corbyn aide over tweet wrongly accusing her of calling Labour leader a ‘Nazi’

  • Rachel Riley is ‘entitled’ to ‘vindication’ over Laura Murray’s tweet two years ago 
  • TV presenter Ms Riley sued Ms Murray for libel after Twitter row over Corbyn 
  • Ms Murray had tweeted that Ms Riley was ‘as dangerous as she is stupid’ 

Rachel Riley has been awarded £10,000 in damages in a High Court libel battle after suing a former aide to Jeremy Corbyn for wrongly accusing her of calling the ex-Labour leader a ‘Nazi’. 

Television presenter Ms Riley, 35, is ‘entitled’ to ‘vindication’ over a tweet posted by Laura Murray, 32, more than two years ago, Mr Justice Nicklin ruled today. 

The row began after a Brexiteer smashed an egg on Mr Corbyn’s head during a visit to Finsbury Park Mosque in north London on March 3, 2019.    

Ms Riley, a numbers expert on the Channel 4 show Countdown, had initially posted a screenshot of a January 2019 tweet by Guardian columnist Owen Jones about an attack on former British National Party leader Nick Griffin, which said: ‘I think sound life advice is, if you don’t want eggs thrown at you, don’t be a Nazi.’

She added ‘Good advice’, with emojis of a red rose and an egg. 

Ms Murray later tweeted: ‘Today Jeremy Corbyn went to his local mosque for Visit My Mosque Day, and was attacked by a Brexiteer. Rachel Riley tweets that Corbyn deserves to be violently attacked because he is a Nazi. This woman is as dangerous as she is stupid. Nobody should engage with her. Ever.’

Ms Riley, who had become a vocal critic of Labour’s handling of anti-Semitism allegations, said she was being sarcastic in her tweet, did not call Mr Corbyn a Nazi, and told the judge that Ms Murray’s tweet caused serious harm to her reputation. 

Mr Justice Nicklin concluded that Ms Riley had demonstrated that Ms Murray’s tweet had caused serious harm to her reputation. He found that both women had been truthful in the evidence they gave and had done their best to ‘assist the court’.

In a tweet, Ms Riley said: ‘I’m extremely pleased to have won my libel case vs Laura Murray, former head of complaints for the Labour Party. This has been a very draining process and I’m relieved to finally have vindication.’


Television presenter Ms Riley, left, is ‘entitled’ to ‘vindication’ over a tweet posted by Laura Murray, right, more than two years, Mr Justice Nicklin ruled today 

January 10, 2019: Former British National Party leader Nick Griffin tweets he had re-watched footage of ‘100 far-left thugs attacking a BNP MEP press conference’ in 2009.

He says Guardian columnist Owen Jones was ‘cheering them on (from the back)’.

Mr Jones replies, saying: ‘I think sound life advice is, if you don’t want eggs thrown at you, don’t be a Nazi. Seems fair to me.’

March 3: An egg is hurled at Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn at Finsbury Park Mosque.

Rachel Riley later posts a screenshot of Owen Jones’ egg tweet, saying it was ‘good advice’, with an emoji of a red rose and an egg.

That same day Laura Murray, a senior aide to the then Labour leader, tweets: ‘Today, Jeremy Corbyn went to his local mosque for Visit My Mosque Day, and was attacked by a Brexiteer.

‘Rachel Riley tweets that Corbyn deserves to be violently attacked because he is a Nazi.

‘This woman is as dangerous as she is stupid. Nobody should engage with her… Ever.’

Ms Riley launches legal action.

April 24, 2020: Ms Riley wins the first round in her High Court libel claim over the tweet.

 Mr Justice Nicklin says that an ‘imputation that a person had publicly supported a violent attack on someone is plainly defamatory at common law’.

He adds that it is ‘conduct which would substantially affect, in an adverse manner, the attitude of other people towards the claimant or have a tendency so to do’.

But he rejects a claim from Ms Murray’s lawyer that she was expressing an opinion when she said Ms Riley had said the Labour leader ‘deserved to be violently attacked’.

He said it was ‘a simple factual statement and would be understood as such’.

May 10, 2021: Ms Riley tells the High Court she was unable to sleep and bombarded with abuse after Jeremy Corbyn’s former aide claimed she said he ‘deserves to be violently attacked because he is a Nazi’.  

December 20, 2021: Rachel Riley is awarded £10,000 in damages after Mr Justice Nicklin rules she is ‘entitled’ to ‘vindication’.

Ms Murray was stakeholder manager in Mr Corbyn’s office when he was Labour leader, and went on to be the party’s head of complaints, before going into teaching.

She argued that what she tweeted was true and reflected her honestly held opinions.

Mr Justice Nicklin ruled at an earlier hearing that Ms Murray’s tweet was defamatory.

He concluded that the tweet meant Ms Riley had ‘publicly stated’ Mr Corbyn had been attacked when visiting a mosque; that he ‘deserved to be violently attacked’; by doing so she had shown herself to be a ‘dangerous and stupid person’ who ‘risked inciting unlawful violence’; and that people should not ‘engage with her’.

The judge was asked to consider whether serious harm had been caused to Ms Riley’s reputation, and whether Ms Murray had a defence of truth, honest opinion, or public interest.

Ms Riley, who studied mathematics at Oxford University and is on maternity leave from Countdown after giving birth in November, told the judge she was Jewish and had a ‘hatred of antisemitism’.

She said she spoke out against antisemitism and thought the Corbyn-led Labour Party was ‘fostering antisemitism’.

Ms Murray told the judge that her job had involved her working with the Jewish community to ‘try to find solutions to the problem of antisemitism which was becoming evident within parts of the Labour Party membership’.    

Ms Riley had earlier written in a statement: ‘I had not tweeted that Jeremy Corbyn deserved to be violently attacked.

‘I was really affronted at being called ”dangerous and stupid” and that people were being told not to have anything to do with me ”ever”.

‘I had made a sarcastic but in my opinion relevant and important comment in relation to Owen Jones and a few hours later the defendant was spreading it round on Twitter that I advocated violence against Jeremy Corbyn because in her words, I had said that he deserved to be attacked because he was a Nazi.’

Ms Riley claims Ms Murray was ‘dog whistling’ her sympathetic Twitter followers to direct a ‘pile on’ of anger and hate.

She previously told the High Court: ‘The allegations in the Tweet have made me feel vulnerable to physical attack which is naturally very worrying.

‘The volume of abusive and threatening messages was all-consuming.

‘I found it hard to focus on my work and suffered sleepless nights. Even now, the abuse has gone unchecked and my reputation is not vindicated.’

Ms Murray has told the court Ms Riley was being ‘deliberately provocative’ by tweeting ‘good advice’ on the day that Jeremy Corbyn was egged.   

She denied defaming Riley, arguing truth, honest opinion and responsible publication in her tweet.

Ms Murray told the court all the tweets that she had seen were saying ‘how can you call Jeremy Corbyn a Nazi?’ with none of them saying ‘this is a comment on hypocrisy, this is a tweet on double standards’.

Ms Riley posted a screenshot of a January 2019 tweet by Guardian columnist Owen Jones about an attack on former British National Party leader Nick Griffin, which said: ‘I think sound life advice is, if you don’t want eggs thrown at you, don’t be a Nazi.’ She added ‘Good advice’, with emojis of a red rose and an egg. Ms Murray later tweeted: ‘Today Jeremy Corbyn went to his local mosque for Visit My Mosque Day, and was attacked by a Brexiteer. Rachel Riley tweets that Corbyn deserves to be violently attacked because he is a Nazi. This woman is as dangerous as she is stupid. Nobody should engage with her. Ever.’

Mr Justice Nicklin ruled that Ms Murray’s tweet was defamatory in common law. Pictured: The High Court in London – where the case was heard

Asked if she could see it was a ‘pile on’, she said: ‘The way it seemed to me was that it was a deliberately provocative of Jeremy Corbyn being attacked.

‘The tweet about Nazis being attacked, saying ”good advice,” ”if you don’t want to be egged don’t be a Nazi”. The way it looked to be was that it was deliberately provocative and designed to provoke a reaction from the left.

‘And it was getting that reaction, lots of people were saying ”Jeremy Corbyn’s not a Nazi, that’s not a fair comparison to make”.

‘Given that many, many people were criticising Rachel Riley like this, the purpose of my tweet was to advise people, as many as would listen, ”don’t engage with this,” ”it’s a waste of time,” ”no one gets anything from it,” ”it’s a huge waste of emotional resources”. I could see this was really counter productive. It’s just totally useless.’ 

Source: Read Full Article