In October 2016 I received a letter from a law firm alleging defamation in relation to two blogs written by me and published on this website.
I am publishing this blog in order to:-
- provide an update to a wide range of individuals and organisations who have been in touch since this case became public in early December 2016.
- draw to the attention of a wider public the issues around the current state of defamation law in Scotland
On 31 October 2016 I received a letter from Burness Paull LLP (BP) alleging that I had published two blogs that were “grossly defamatory” of its client. It alleged that the blogs were “littered with false and defamatory comments” and “for the sake of brevity”, the letter listed six examples.
That client is Wildcat Haven Enterprises CIC (hereafter abbreviated to WHE).
WHE sought “a full and unequivocal retraction and apology” and was advised by BP that it is entitled to “substantial compensation from you for the damage caused directly by the blogs”. I was informed that WHE “estimates its losses to be in the region of £750,000” and that WHE would also require payment by myself of all of its legal costs.
The letter informed me that that, if I did not provide a “satisfactory reply” by 14 November 2016 our instructions are to issue a summons”
On 10 November 2016, I responded to this letter through my solicitor denying the claims of alleged defamation.
On 30 November 2016, BP replied and disputed my denials and intimated that its instructions were “now to proceed with a summons”.
My solicitor responded to this correspondence with further detail on 14 December 2016.
On 15 December 2016, BP wrote to my solicitors to intimate that they had instructed a QC and were sending papers to him that day.
As of today, 24 February 2017, no Summons has been received by my solicitor.
Scottish Green Party Conjoined
Burns Paull LLP has also issued a legal letter on behalf of WHE to the Scottish Green Party intimating that it will also be conjoined in an action for allegedly communicating the defamation via a hyperlink on its website.
The significance of today’s date is that, were these allegations to be made against me under English law, I would now be free since, a pursuer has one year in which to raise an action. The law in England and Wales was modernised by the Defamation Act 2013.
The law on defamation in Scotland is under review by the Scottish Law Commission and Scottish PEN are campaigning for reform. See also the UK wide Libel Reform Campaign.
Consequences for an MSP
In the event that an MSP becomes personally insolvent (through, for example, losing a £750,000 defamation case) and sequestration is awarded to the debtor, the MSP is disqualified from being a member of the Scottish Parliament under Sections 15 and 17 of the Scotland Act 1998 read with Section 427 of the Insolvency Act 1986. During a period of 6 months following sequestration, an MSP may not participate in proceedings of the Parliament. This disqualification ends in the event that that award of sequestration is recalled or reduced. If the award remains after 6 months (ie the MSP still owes the sum awarded but cannot pay and remains insolvent) then the MSP loses their seat and a vacancy arises.
My total assets are nowhere near £750,000.
I am saying nothing further on the matter for the moment and for legal reasons this blog is closed to comments.
Please also note that anyone repeating the alleged defamation through social media is liable to being pursued for the same alleged defamation.