Champagne corks were reputed to be popping on the third floor of the Council House on Tuesday morning as Jan allegedly threw open the Strategic Leadership fridge to all and sundry to celebrate the demise of The Bristol Blogger.
Alas, within hours, those fevered celebrations petered out as your favourite local blogger reappeared on the internet relatively unscathed – if a few old Howard Newby stories lighter. The council meanwhile are now in crisis with both their Champagne and grit supplies running out fast …
Since those dark days of Tuesday, our man down the pub who specialises in defamation – well, he quotes Arkell vs Pressdram on a regular basis anyway – has been analysing what’s been going on. Here’s what he says in a nutshell:
1. The allegations have been in the public domain for a considerable amount of time now with no action taken. This makes it very hard – although not impossible – to claim defamation.
2. The exact same allegations are still in the public domain through other news outlets. This would make it very hard to claim defamation
3. One item is simply a headline and one sentence pointing to a story published the next day that clarifies the initial claim. This would be considered a “suitable correction”, especially considering the short time frame between the “defamatory” claim and the correction. A case for defamation would be unlikely to succeed.
4. Taking defamation action over insults – which are a form of opinion – is both difficult and ill-advised. Even if they were to win, would it be wise for, say, a Knight of the Realm to sit in the High Court for a week while someone tried to prove you were a gormless cunt/a spineless twat/a retarded fuckbucket etc? The press would have a field day. And what if you lost?
5. If the insults/opinion are views formed on the basis of disputed facts, as in this case, then this complicates matters further. If the disputed facts are proved true then it’s likely the opinion would not be considered defamatory either.
6. Defamation is Call My Bluff for rich men. It’s not for higher education bureaucrats using public funds.
And finally, according to Ecologics, WordPress have now told them the following:
Although there has been no official legal pronouncement on the matter, WordPress policy, and apparently UK laws mean that the post can only be re-published by removing the disputed material until such a time when the matter is decided by courts.
“This is bollocks,” says our man. “None of this has anything to do with the courts yet.
“All that’s happened is that Newby’s employer has written a letter of complaint to WordPress. So what? Why remove anything?
“If you don’t believe me, imagine if your employer wrote on your behalf and accused, say, the News of the World of defamation and then said they must remove the offending article until a court decides otherwise.
“Would they remove that article? Would they fuck.
“Besides, what happens if – as is very likely – Newby doesn’t take the matter to court? These articles then stay censored forever on the basis of a weak letter of complaint from an employer?
“Mind you, I suppose the bloggers could always force it to court themselves by suing Newby and Ryan for defamation for saying their articles were defamatory.”
Is it time to start the fighting fund?
Disclaimer: this advice really was dispensed by someone very drunk in the pub (and recalled from memory the next morning) who is not a specialist in defamation. Dont’t try this at home kids!