Thursday, April 08, 2010

High Court Finds Against Leading Labour Blogger

Alex Hilton has not had a good day if my reading of this interim judgement in the High Court is correct. Reading between the lines, it could have severe implications for all bloggers. In short, he is being sued because of an article posted on Labour Home which intimated that someone had been suspected of being a member of a terrorist organisation. Until he got a complaint from the person concerned, Alex had been unaware of the article as it had been autoposted on the site. His defence was that he knew nothing about it and therefore the case should not proceed to trial. The High Court disagreed. Having said that, although Alex was ruled against on striking out the case, the Judge did seem more sympathetic on some of the points of law raised by him in his case.

It's difficult to tell what the consequences of this may be, and it's probably best to leave this to a lawyer to speculate on. But it does make me wonder if I am very safe in moderating comments. Quite often I block moderate them (if I have been in a long meeting, for example) which means I cannot possibly read every single one of them. But by the very act of pressing APPROVE, a court might find, if there was a problem, that I had indeed known about the comment, even if I hadn't - if you see what I mean.

I haven't spoken to Alex, but I feel desperately sorry for him in having to put up with this needless ordeal. There but for the grace of God, etc etc.

Now that the case is proceeding to trial, it is going to cost him an arm and a leg. We should all help him in this because potentially it could shut us all down if we're not willing to take any risks.

UPDATE: Guido has just left this comment: "Hilton is happy with the ruling, he din't get her case struck out, but she got told in no uncertain terms she wasn't going to win." If he's happy, I'm happy, but if costs aren't awarded to him when it comes to court, his pockets will have to be very deep.

16 comments:

trevorsden said...

Is blogging actually 'publishing'? Has it been defined?

My spell checker does not even recognise the word.

Would not some disclaimer across the top of the site cover it? The fact is blogging is not a newspaper. Its whole point is its individuality - there is no way an individual can check the legality of every word, if they had to the whole concept of blogs the whole world over is finished.

Guido Fawkes said...

Hilton is happy with the ruling, he din't get her case struck out, but she got told in no uncertain terms she wasn't going to win.

Get your facts right Dale.

Roger Thornhill said...

This is outrageous.

What if someone came into one's pub unseen and just started to, say, smoke, and...oh, hang on.


Yet another Fencepost for us to endure. At any time we are caught through no Mens Rea.

Another shove from Common Law to Code Napoleon and Cameron will do nowt about it.

Norfolk Blogger said...

This is the sort of thing that will get worse when we have parties prepared to accept more authoritarian rubbish like the Digital Economy Bill last night, which the Tories supported.

Ellee Seymour said...

This could well be an important test case. This is what barrister James Tumbridge advised in a guest post on my blog on this issue:
http://elleeseymour.com/2009/04/15/defamation-and-the-law-of-blogging/

Houdini said...

Comments made by people are fine if you remove them in good time and especially after a complaint.

Hilton deserves no sympathy as he had allowed access to post an article, not a comment, and he did not remove it in good time.

Odious little bleep deserves no sympathy as he was playing semantics to get out of a hole he had himself made. It is refreshing that the judge saw through it.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

It is difficult to think of anybody less worthy of being a martyr to the cause, than Alex (Thatcher is dead) Hilton.

The implications are that you should bloody well read what people have to say on your blog. For some time, I have been including incredibly libelous comments about Peter Mandelson, and the boys organisation concerned, and the high profile branded equipment they used, on my comments to this blog, and up to now, you haven't noticed.

p smith said...

Relax. If this was a strike out application as it appears to be, then the fact that the case was not struck out simply means that the judge believes there is enough to merit a proper trial of the matter. It is a very low threshold and does not mean that Hilton "lost" his case.

Tachybaptus said...

Deep pockets are certainly needed. The author Simon Singh has recently won on appeal after he was sued for describing chiropractic as rubbish (see this) but it looks as if it is going to cost him £200,000.

Norton Folgate said...

"We should all help him in this"

Um....no, how about we don't.

Hilton is a part of the Labour lie machine, if he needs money he can go to the unions like Gordon does.

He should have been more careful what smears and allegations he allowed onto his Labour propoganda site.

Stephen said...

*why* is Guido so obnoxious?

I stopped going there a long time ago because I found it all such a thoroughly demoralising display of the human condition and I see he hasn't changed.

At times like this it's worth remembering to thank you Iain for never permitting this blog to go that down route.

Norfolk Blogger said...

I am loathe to feel sympathy for Alex Hilton because if his attacks on the people of Norfolk on his recess monkey site.

It wouldn't be so bad if he had made the comment in jest, but he seemed to actually beelieve the rubbish he was writing.

Richard Baron said...

The lawyers are well-fed, while free debate is disrupted. We would, I think, be better off if the tort of defamation were abolished and no-one could sue for slander or libel at all. A lot more offensive nonsense would get written about people, but they could reply and point out that the perpetrators were not to be trusted as sources of information. And the gain to free expression would be immense.

Jimmy said...

"she got told in no uncertain terms she wasn't going to win."

By whom?

Joe Hullait said...

Surely if we want to win, we must get rid of guys in our party like this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K1T6B7GTCE0

Thatsnews said...

I believe that blogging is publishing.