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England and Wales High Court (Queen's Bench Division) Decisions
You are here: BAILII >> Databases >> England and Wales High Court (Queen's Bench Division) Decisions >> Turley v UNITE the Union & Anor  EWHC 3547 (QB) (19 December 2019)
Cite as:  EWHC 3547 (QB)
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QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
MEDIA & COMMUNICATIONS LIST
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL
B e f o r e :
| Anna Turley
- and –
|(1) Unite the Union
(2) Stephen Walker
Anthony Hudson QC and Mark Henderson (instructed by Howe & Co) for the Defendants
Hearing dates: 11-15 and 19 November 2019
Crown Copyright ©
The Honourable Mr Justice Nicklin :
|F.||Responsibility for Publication||-|
|(2) Public interest||-|
|J.||Abuse of Process||-|
|(2) Other remedies||-|
|Appendix 1||The Article||ap1|
|Appendix 2||Extracts from the First Defendant's Rules||ap2|
|Appendix 3||Extracts from the Re-Amended Defence||ap3|
B. The Parties
"The veteran left-winger [Mr McCluskey] is believed to have told members of Unite's ruling executive committee about his plan this evening…
Senior Labour party figures believe it would be a 'game changer' if Mr McCluskey were to be defeated by a moderate candidate.
'Deposing Len as general secretary would give us a chance of winning the next election,' said one source.
'At a stroke it would remove Unite's support for Jeremy, leaving him vulnerable if there was another coup. The stakes are huge.'…"
"My support for his 2017 re-election campaign was based on a political assessment of his candidacy and the importance of his winning to the wider Labour movement. This is entirely in line with the well-publicised and completely open left-wing political stance of both the blog and personally. The blog is highly opinionated and strong in its defence of Mr Corbyn's leadership, to which a significant number in the Labour Party are vehemently opposed. As a result, my blog is often under strong attack from political opponents of Mr Corbyn whom I have criticised…"
C. The Witnesses
D. The Facts
Unite Community Membership
"[Unite Community] was intended to promote equality, dignity and respect for all. In particular, Unite Community allows for those who may be on the margins of society, who are not in employment, to organise collectively and obtain support, particularly for local and national activist campaigns…"
"UK's largest union redefines Cameron's 'big society'
Unite is offering legal, debt and benefits advice for out of work people in their local communities to win new followers to its cause.
When a visitor enters the Casa Bar in central Liverpool, evidence of a community's transformation is visible from the front door… The Casa is one of the founding branches of a community membership programme launched by Britain's largest trade union, Unite. For 50p a week, people not in work over the age of 16 can receive a range of benefits, including access to Unite's legal helpline, debt counselling and assistance on claiming benefits. Unite says the scheme is a natural extension of its activities and values, but it is also an attempt to reclaim members who have been lost to economic upheavals in the past three decades…"
i) the First Defendant's Rule Book (which in December 2016 ran to 46 pages and extracts of which are set out in Appendix 2 to this judgment), under which it is common ground that Unite Community Membership was not available to those who were in employment (see Rule 28.1).
ii) the "Community membership" page on the First Defendant's website, ("the Unite Community Homepage") which contained the following (emphasis in original text):
"Unite's mission is to organise people to strive for a society that places equality, dignity and respect above all else.
But our union recognises that we can only achieve this if we bring people together from all walks of life.
Even now in the 21st century, too many people in our country are being pushed to the margins of society. They deserve to be heard; they too deserve the support to organise collectively.
It is with this in mind that Unite has founded its community membership scheme, making us the leading community trade union in the UK and Ireland.
Unite's community membership scheme brings together people from across our society.
Those not in employment are welcomed into the union family, adding another dimension to our strength in thousands of workplaces across the UK and Ireland.
Organising and activism are at the centre of strong communities, which is why Unite's community membership provides a way people can find and use their political voice. Whether it is taking a stand against a service closure or coming together to improve your living environment, as a community member, Unite will be on your side.
These are seriously hard times for ordinary people. Incomes, housing, our health, education and legal services – the very pillars of our society for more than 60 years – are now under assault.
It is only as standing together that we can defend our lives.
Through Unite's community membership we will work with you to make life better; we will give you the platform you need to create a fairer society. Our trade unions are the biggest voluntary group in the UK and Ireland. At 6.5 million strong, we are the Big Society. At Unite we have 1.5 million members – just imagine what you can achieve with them standing by your side?
For information on the scheme send us an email.
For more information and to see what benefits Community Membership brings you – providing support, helping you save money and claim your entitlements click here
Or call the Community membership information line – 0333 240 9789…
Community Membership: together we are stronger
■ Community membership information guide – download the guide [LINK 1]
■ 15 reasons to become a community member [LINK 2]
■ UK's largest union redefines Cameron's 'big society' – read the article from the Guardian about Unite's Community membership, 1 May 2012
■ Yes – I want to join for just 50p per week – download a Community membership join form or join online and become a Unite community member now
■ Questions/want to know more? – then email Unite's community membership team and Unite will get back to you…"
iii) a document, titled "UNITING COMMUNITIES Getting involved", which was provided as a pdf if "LINK 1" on the Unite Community Homepage was followed, which included the following (emphasis in original text):
"What is Community Membership?
Unite's new category of membership brings people outside of the workplace into the union community, linking families and workplaces together to strive for a better, more caring society. Community membership places organising and activism at the centre of local communities: it provides a structure through which people can use their political voices to campaign for change.
Community membership also offers a variety of individual benefits and services, designed to look after the interests of our members and make their lives easier. These benefits range from discounts at major high street retailers, to debt counselling and a free 24-hour legal helpline.
How do you join and what does it cost?
If you are not in paid employment; a student, carer, retired or unemployed, membership costs just 50p a week which can be paid annually or monthly by Direct Debit. Unite is currently looking into other forms of payment for those who do not have bank accounts, such as pay point and cash payments.
You can join online, collect an application form at any one of Unite's local offices or download a form via the website www.unitetheunion.org/community.
If a member finds paid work after joining Unite Community, they will either transfer onto the full Unite membership rate or be advised to join the appropriate union if the work is not in an area covered by Unite.
If you join another union for work, you can still maintain your Unite Community Membership and continue campaigning for a better society within your community group.
iv) a document titled "Unite Community Membership 15 REASONS TO JOIN", which was also provided as a pdf if "LINK 2" on the Unite Community Homepage was followed, which included the following:
"Being part of a trade union is not just about having a voice in the workplace, it's about being part of a movement to create a better society.
Unite is now offering community membership to members of the local community who are not working. Whether you are unemployed, volunteering, retired, at school/college or university or raising children, there is a home for you in Unite.
As the biggest trade union in the UK and Ireland, Unite has negotiated great benefits and services for our members which we are now able to offer to our community members.
For just 50p a week, you will have access to a range of services and benefits designed to improve your life and protect your rights. Most importantly, Unite will help you find your voice and shape your local community in a way that improves life for you and your family."
It also identified 15 benefits of Community Membership, including "CV and application letter writing" and "Interview tips".
v) the membership subscription rates published on the website, in the following four categories:
(1) "Enhanced" - ranging from £15.14 per month for those in full-time employment to £7.93 for those in part-time employment;
(2) "Basic" – ranging from £14.06 per month for those in full-time employment to £7.37 per month for those in part-time employment;
(3) "Apprentices" – starting at £2.79 per month in the first year of apprenticeship and rising to £11.27 per month in the fourth year; and
(4) "Special Discounted Rate Categories" a rate of 50p per week (or £2.17 per month) for "People not working or in further education.
vi) three videos promoting Unite Community available on YouTube, one of which was embedded on the Unite Community Homepage, which were played in full during the trial. One of these videos was available until 23 January 2017 and then replaced, from that date, by a revised version. I have re-watched these when writing this judgment.
i) Stage 1:
"Join Unite online
You can use our Join Online form if you wish to pay by Direct Debit, either from a UK bank account or a SEPA registered bank account if you reside in the Republic of Ireland. To continue, please click the 'Join' button below."
The applicant was then given the option of joining either as a UK resident or Republic of Ireland resident.
ii) Stage 2: If the applicant chose 'UK Resident' then s/he was taken to the following page:
"Join Unite online
Please identify how you wish to pay, by selecting one of these options."
The three options were:
UK Direct debit payment
"I want to pay by direct debit from a UK bank account."
"I want to join as a Community Member. For more information click here"
[clicking the link would take the applicant to the Unite Community Homepage]
Join as Retired
"I want to join as a retired member"
iii) Stage 3: If the applicant chose 'Community Member' then s/he was taken to a page stating that Community Membership is only available if paying by direct debit.
iv) Stage 4: If the applicant confirmed that s/he was content to pay by direct debit, the next page required the applicant to provide his/her name, date of birth and email address. Once provided, the applicant could click on to the next page.
v) Stage 5: The applicant was required to provide a postal address and at least one telephone number. The applicant was given a link to the First Defendant's data protection notice and given a choice to opt to receive Unite Magazine and/or "Partner mail".
vi) Stage 6: On the next page, the applicant was advised that the subscription rate was £2.17 monthly and then asked to enter bank details to set up a direct debit instruction.
vii) Stage 7: The applicant was then asked to select and confirm a password, for logging in to the membership section of the First Defendant's website, and to provide answers to security questions (e.g. name of first school).
viii) Stage 8: On the final page, the details provided by the applicant were set out (with an option to edit them) and confirmation of the direct debit instruction. Finally, the applicant had to tick a box stating: "I agree to abide by the union's rules". The underlined words were a hyperlink to a page entitled "Structure", which stated (bolding in original text):
"Unite is a modern trade union for the 21st Century, democratic and responsive to member's needs. Unite's structure is one in which members are encouraged to get involved and have their say. This page includes information about and links on the Unite executive council, the structure of the union, having your say and the Unite rule book effective from Rules Conference 2015 (approved by Executive Council September 2015) and EC Guidance on the implementation of rule (sic).
Please note: Printed copies of the rule book are available to members from their regional office, and members that require braille or large print formats may request this by emailing Unite's Support Unit
■ Unite the union rule book
■ EC Guidance on implementation of rule
■ Unite the union executive council members
■ Unite the union executive council minutes and record …
[each of the bullet points linked to other pages/materials]."
The double-underlined references to the First Defendant's Rule Book linked to the full text of the Union's rules (see [17(i)] above and extracts in Appendix 2 to this judgment).
"Thank you for completing your application for Unite's Community membership which has now been processed.
Your Member Number is: XXXXXXX
Your User ID is: [applicant's email address]
Thank you for joining Unite and welcome to our community membership. Unite is the UK and Ireland's largest trade union. Unite is organising in workplaces and communities across the nations and working hard to ensure fairness, dignity and respect for all within our society.
You will soon receive your union card and details of the wide range of individual benefits you will get with your membership, in particular can I draw your attention [to] our freephone legal hotline…
In addition to the personal benefits, trade unionism is about collective support. We are at our best when acting together, uniting to resolve the issues that really concern us.
Effective campaigning that unites the broadest range of people and organisations is a skill. We intend to offer practical training to our community activists that will give you the benefits of collective organisation and effective campaigning.
Unite will work with you to ensure that your voice is heard and that you gain the respect and recognition you deserve in your community. If you are interested in becoming a Unite Community Activist and would like details of how to access training options and organise a community branch in your area contact Community Support.
We hope you have a long and happy association with Unite."
The Birthday Club WhatsApp Group
"And in other news it's game on in Unite. We'll need to be careful though to ensure that it's not positioned by McCluskey as him versus us…"
The Claimant (22:42): "Reckon they will notice if I try to join?
Ruth Smeeth (22:42): "Nope. Join the community branch it's cheaper"
The Claimant (22:43): "Ok you're on x"
Stella Creasy (22:44): "Share the link Ruth – am going to enjoy this recruitment exercise … #payback"
Chris Leslie (22:44): "Send around the link to community branch so we can all do it pls…!"
Stella Creasy (22:44): "Great minds chris… great minds…. [picture of a baby winking]"
Ruth Smeeth (22:46): "Here you go https://www.unitetheunion.org/join-unite/. follow the links to the community membership x"
Ruth Smeeth (22:47): "Download the form here http://www.unitetheunion.org/uploaded/documents/Community%20application%20form11-3170.pdf"
The Claimant (22:51): "Done. Now for a shower".
The link provided by Ruth Smeeth at 22:46 was to the Stage 1 of the online joining process (see [20(i)] above).
"I knew in December 2016 (and continue to know today) people in my local branch of Unite who were in the Community branch even though they were in work. I believed that the Community membership was at least partly a way of allowing people to join a Union who were based in a non-unionised workplace. So, even to today's date [19 June 2019], I still believe that Unite Community membership is held by a large number of people in work… I would never have encouraged my colleagues in the Birthday Club group to join the Community section of Unite if I thought for one moment that that was contrary to the rules of the Union or was in any way dishonest…"
The Claimant joins Unite Community
Unite becomes aware that the Claimant has joined Unite Community
Thank you for joining Unite.
I note that you have joined as a Unite Community member. However, I understand that as an MP you are in full time employment.
As a paid worker you need to switch your membership to industrial. If you need assistance in this please let me know. I'd be grateful if you confirm this email.
Ms Groves said that the draft would need to be run past Karen Reay. When she gave evidence, Ms Reay said that she did not think that she had been consulted about the email (and certainly there are no email communications suggesting that she had been). On 4 February 2017, Mr Coan sought (and obtained) final approval from Ms Groves to send the draft email to the Claimant.
Apologies for this – I didn't realise I had joined the wrong section, thanks for letting me know.
Yes I would like to transfer to the appropriate membership please – do let me know how I can do this.
"Further to our chat at Len McLuskey's (sic) Rally in Durham on Monday night, here are the details of 2 members on my list who should not be in the Unite Community as one is an MP and the other, is one of her Parliamentary Staff, here are the details:
Anna Turley MP [membership details given]
Jordan Hall [membership details given]…"
"I have already emailed Ms Turkey (sic) regarding this several weeks ago. I was polite but made it very clear that as a member of Parliament she needed to be paying full subscriptions and explained the criteria for Community Membership. She did reply to my email explaining that this was an error on her part and that she would update her membership. It's the first I have heard of the other individual but will of course look into this issue further."
It is not a point of any substance, but Mr Coan's suggestion that he had explained the criteria for Community Membership to the Claimant is not accurate. His email of 1 March 2017 did not contain any such explanation. It may be that Mr Coan had misremembered the contents of his message to the Claimant.
"No formal investigation had begun. A complaint had been received, which needed to be investigated, but matters had not progressed beyond that point before the Claimant left the Union. Accordingly, no individual had been appointed to take charge of the investigation."
In her evidence at trial, Ms Reay said that, prior to publication of the Article, there had been a complaint and it needed to be investigated. There was no formal investigation at that stage, and she had no further contact with Mr Taylor in relation to the matter. She did confirm, however, in answer to a question by Ms Wilson, that any investigation would have been an internal matter and the First Defendant would not comment on that. She was not aware of any contact from the Second Defendant in relation to any article on the issue and she had not been aware of The Skwawkbox before the Article was published.
The Second Defendant's sources for the Article
"A few days before publication of the Article (I believe it may have been on the evening of Tuesday 4 April 2017 or the morning of Wednesday 5 April 2017) I was informed by the Primary Source that a 'flood' of new members had joined Unite Community on the concessionary rate who were ineligible for membership because they were in employment. The word 'flood' was used by the Primary Source, and I understood it to mean a significant and abnormal number over a short period, but specific numbers were not given to me. I was told that they included MPs and councillors. I was given the name of one MP, who was the Claimant, and two councillors. I decided not to identify the other two people who were named as they were not particularly newsworthy. I was told that this was a co-ordinated plan, and because of the timing, and given the political profile of those joining, that it was evident that the plan was to increase the vote for Coyne. The timing was consistent with joining to beat the cut-off date of 1 January 2017 to be eligible to vote in the election for General Secretary. I was told that a complaint had been made about the Claimant, which was being investigated at regional level. The above is not verbatim, as I have not retained a note of the conversation. The substance was that the source understood that the complaint was being investigated at regional level, but the words could have been 'looked into' or similar term. The source did not convey that it was being investigated in any particular way, or that there was any formal procedure under union rules."
The Second Defendant stated that this "Primary Source" was someone with whom he had a long-standing relationship and who had "consistently proved reliable". The "Primary Source" had, he said, never previously provided him with information that had turned out to be false. The source was described as "active politically with extensive connections across the Parliamentary Labour Party" and who talked regularly to MPs and parliamentary staffers. The Second Defendant stated in his witness statement that the Primary Source "does not work for the First Defendant, and to my knowledge never has done. I have no knowledge of any other connection [the source has] with the First Defendant or what union [the source is] a member of, if any."
i) neither Mr Taylor nor Ms Reay were sources;
ii) the Primary and Secondary Sources did not work for the First Defendant; and
iii) the employer of one of the Secondary Sources was a Labour MP.
i) I accept the evidence of Ms Reay and the Second Defendant that Ms Reay and Mr Taylor did not provide information to the Second Defendant for the Article.
ii) Although, given the nature of the information that was provided, the likelihood is that it must have originated from the First Defendant, it is not possible to identify how that information was passed to the Second Defendant (e.g. via some an intermediary).
iii) The Claimant has not demonstrated that anyone at the First Defendant passed the information to the Second Defendant. Without establishing that, it is also impossible to resolve whether the First Defendant would be legally responsible for this person's actions (whether by vicarious liability or on some other basis).
The First Defendant's Press Statement
"The fact that the Second Defendant, as a journalist, knew what he did about the Claimant's membership and a complaint, was not something I wanted to be commenting on. The First Defendant is a trade union and its main priority is getting on with trade union business, and not enquiries like those of the Second Defendant. I just wanted to close down the enquiry from the Second Defendant, whilst at the same time making it clear that those in work could not join Unite Community.
I therefore decided to keep the statement factual and as limited as possible, with no names mentioned. My intention was to prevent the union's internal business being dragged into the media. I think that I suggested to John Coan that I would see if I was contacted again, rather than going back to the Second Defendant and, if I was, I would say something along the lines of the statement the Second Defendant subsequently published. Looking at the statement, I would have suggested that I respond generally about the fact that the First Defendant welcomes new members, but anyone joining on a fraudulent basis would prompt an investigation. This statement was true and it was not a statement about the Claimant. Then in terms of responding regarding the complaint about the Claimant, which the Second Defendant knew about, I would have just confirmed a complaint had been received and was being looked into. My intention again, was to close down the enquiry and I think John Coan would have agreed with my approach at that time.
The Second Defendant did call me back and I provided the First Defendant's statement… I did not write down the statement I gave, but I have read what is included in the Second Defendant's article… I believe that what the Second Defendant has published is a broadly accurate reflection of what I said to him…"
"I can see now that by saying it was being 'investigated', as opposed to perhaps saying 'considered', 'examined' or 'looked into' could have led people reading more into the statement than was intended. I was not saying that there was a formal 'investigation' underway and I did not intend my statement to be interpreted in this way. To me this was a 'nothing' enquiry by a blog with a limited readership…"
"I had no intention when making the statement of breaching any data protection duties owed to the Claimant. I really did not think about this at the time. I do not know if it was because the Claimant is a MP and media enquiries regarding MPs are normally on matters of public record. The union would generally treat an enquiry about a MP as something we could answer because their membership should be a matter of public record. A MP is a public person and being in a union is something that the Labour Party requires and promotes, so to me it was not something out of the norm to respond to an inquiry which may relate to a MP. It just did not cross my mind that what I was saying was revealing personal data. Now, with hindsight, I would not have provided to the Second Defendant the personal data which is referred to in [the Press Statement]. However, from my best recollection, the Second Defendant already indicated that he knew the Claimant had joined as a Unite Community member and that a complaint had been raised about this. By responding as I did, I was just trying to shut the enquiry down at what was a very busy time dealing with extraordinary high volume (sic) of enquiries."
i) From her conversations with him, Ms Doyle knew that the Second Defendant intended to publish an article which would contain at least the following basic facts:
(1) that the Claimant had joined the First Defendant on reduced Unite Community rates;
(2) that, as she was in full-time employment as an MP, she was not entitled to join Unite Community; and
(3) that a complaint about the Claimant's conduct in doing so had been received and was being investigated by the First Defendant.
ii) Ms Doyle was an experienced press officer. She would have been fully aware that she did not need to provide a comment to the Second Defendant at all but, if she did provide one, it was liable to be published as a statement made on behalf of the First Defendant in an article that was likely to include at least the basic facts she had been told by the Second Defendant together with any additional facts she provided or confirmed. Knowing this, Ms Doyle provided an 'on-the-record' statement for publication as the official response from the First Defendant to the allegations against the Claimant outlined by the Second Defendant. She would have understood fully that, once she had provided a comment for publication, there was little practically she could do to prevent the Second Defendant from publishing it.
iii) Ms Doyle had sufficient time to investigate the points that had been put to her by the Second Defendant and to consider what, if any, statement the First Defendant would give for publication and its terms; she was not 'bounced'. If she had wanted to take care over the terms of any statement to ensure that her meaning was clear, she could have taken time to provide a written statement for publication (or drafted one that she could read to the Second Defendant).
iv) If Ms Doyle's intention had been to "shut down" the inquiry made by the Second Defendant, providing the Press Statement for publication which referred to people "joining on a fraudulent basis" was, as she must have realised, likely to excite, not diminish, interest in the story. It was the equivalent of throwing a substantial quantity of fuel over a very small fire. Ms Reay stated in her evidence that the First Defendant did not usually comment on internal investigations. Ms Doyle could simply have given that answer to the Second Defendant. If Ms Doyle thought that she was dealing with a "nothing enquiry by a blog with limited readership", that might explain her incautious choice of words in the statement she provided for publication.
v) My conclusion is that, objectively judged, the Press Statement provided by Ms Doyle was probably the most powerful contributor to the overall defamatory meaning of the resulting Article; in just two sentences she delivered the unambiguous element of fraud. Ms Doyle should have recognised this.
vi) She also provided confirmation of further facts that appeared in the Article: she confirmed that the First Defendant was carrying out an investigation into the Claimant; that this was being conducted by Ms Reay; and there was no exemption to the First Defendant's rules that would allow an MP to join Unite Community.
vii) The fact that Ms Doyle did not use any names in the Press Statement had no practical effect, a fact that, given her experience, Ms Doyle must have realised. Ms Doyle knew that her statement, given in the context of the allegations the Second Defendant had put to her about the Claimant's joining Unite Community in breach of the rules, was liable to appear in an Article reporting the same allegations and identifying the Claimant. Certainly, the Second Defendant had given Ms Doyle no indication that he would not be naming the Claimant in any article he published.
viii) I cannot accept that Ms Doyle really thought that the first sentence of the Press Statement was not referring to the Claimant, and I reject as wholly unrealistic the explanation she gives in her witness statement as to how she reached that conclusion. Ms Doyle has not suggested that the two sentences that appeared in §14 of the Article had been separated by some other words, omitted by the Second Defendant, that thereby distorted her meaning. I accept the Second Defendant's evidence that he typed her comment for publication into the draft Article as she gave it to him on the telephone. The reference in the second sentence to the "complaint" that had been received could, in context, only have been understood as a complaint about the Claimant. Further, it must have been obvious to Ms Doyle that both sentences would, if published in an article containing the allegations that the Second Defendant had outlined to her, be understood as referring to the Claimant.
Efforts to obtain comment from the Claimant
"Dear Ms Turley
The SKWAWKBOX had received information indicating you joined Unite Community union earlier this year – a section of Unite for unemployed people – in order to vote for Gerard Coyne.
Do you wish to provide any comment on why you didn't join the main Unite union for an extra £10 or so a month before the story goes out.
"Thank you for contacting the office of Anna Turley MP for Redcar.
This is an automated response to acknowledge receipt of your email…
I will deal with correspondence in the order that I get it. Please be patient whilst I process your email and request. It may take up to 4 weeks to respond to your email, but we will always aim to respond as soon as possible…"
"The article will be published tonight, so please respond by return if you wish any comment to be included".
i) The Claimant was not in her constituency office that afternoon. There had been serious flooding in the Redcar area, and she was out of the office – together with her office manager, Alec Brown – assisting some constituents who had been affected. The Claimant's evidence is that, at some point during the afternoon, Mr Brown told her that he had received a call from Sarah Freeney, who was in the constituency office, to say that they had received an email and a voicemail message from The Skwawkbox which was intending to publish an article about the Claimant. The Claimant told Mr Brown that she would deal with the inquiry when she returned to the office. Later that evening, from 18.15, the Claimant attended an Executive Committee meeting of her local constituency Labour Party.
ii) The only other person who was at the constituency office that afternoon – with Ms Freeney – was Jordan Hall. Ms Freeney's evidence was that as they were down to half the normal staff in the office, she and Mr Hall left any calls to go to voicemail that afternoon. Mr Hall said, in his evidence, that he would not normally answer the phone in any event. Ms Freeney said that she would check voicemail messages when she had an opportunity, perhaps each hour or every couple of hours. She left the office that afternoon at 17.00. At some point – she estimated between 15.30 and when she left at 17.00 – she checked the voicemail and found a message from a person calling from The Skwawkbox. She could not remember the content of the message but said, in her statement, that "it was not a significant message and it was quite short". Voicemail messages are not routinely kept. Ms Freeney recalled mentioning the message to Mr Hall and she may even have played him the message, she could not recall. Mr Hall told her that they had received an email as well from The Skwawkbox. Ms Freeney said that she telephoned Mr Brown at about 15.30 to tell him about the contact from The Skwawkbox. She thought it was about that time because of the timing of a particular meeting that afternoon. Mr Hudson QC put it to Ms Freeney in cross-examination that she had answered a call from the Second Defendant at 16.07. Ms Freeney said that she did not recall that, and she did not think that she had answered any calls that afternoon. Ms Freeney's evidence was that she had not spoken to anyone from The Skwawkbox that afternoon.
iii) Mr Hall said that that afternoon he was in the constituency office and was monitoring the Claimant's email. He picked up the email from the Second Defendant sent at 15.17. He was told by Ms Freeney that someone from The Skwawkbox had left a voicemail message and Mr Hall asked her to phone Mr Brown (who was with the Claimant) and tell them of the message. Mr Hall was aware of The Skwawkbox but said that he did not consider it a credible media organisation and would not normally treat it as a priority. Nevertheless, he considered, from the content of the email, that it did need to be brought to the Claimant's attention. Later, at 16.42, he forwarded the 15.17 email from the Second Defendant to the Claimant's personal email account, and said, in the accompanying message: "This is one of those far left news organisations like the Canary. My bet is on John Taylor or someone in the local Tees Unite Community branch being the source for this." It is plain from the terms of his message that Mr Hall did not consider that the matter was urgent, and this is consistent with his evidence that he had not seen the further email from the Second Defendant at 15.53 indicating an intention to publish that evening.
iv) Mr Hudson QC specifically asked Mr Hall whether he had taken the call from the Second Defendant at 16.07. Mr Hall said that he had not done so. He confirmed what Ms Freeney had said about letting all calls go to voicemail that afternoon.
v) In his witness statement, Alec Brown said that he had been out of the office with the Claimant visiting flood victims during the afternoon of 7 April 2017. He said that he received a call from Ms Freeney at around 15.30 and was told that the Claimant had received an inquiry from The Skwawkbox about her membership of Unite. Mr Brown passed the information to the Claimant, he thought, limited simply to the fact that The Skwawkbox had been in touch about her Unite membership. The Claimant had said that she could not deal with the inquiry at that time but that she would deal with it later. When cross-examined, Mr Brown denied that he was aware that The Skwawkbox was demanding a comment that day.
vi) In his witness statement, the Second Defendant stated that he had made one call to the constituency office – at 16.07 – after he had not received a response to his emails. He said that he spoke to a man who told him that he was a member of the Claimant's constituency office staff. The Second Defendant said that this man told him that the Claimant was in the office, but that she was busy. The Second Defendant described the rest of the conversation, as follows:
"I told him that I had sent two emails about the Article, that it was going to be published that evening, and that I needed her comment, if any, urgently. I had not mentioned a complaint and investigation in the original email because I wanted to see first what she came back with before disclosing everything I had been told. However, since she had not responded, and to try to encourage her staff to deal with my request for comment urgently in the hope she would respond, I gave the person I spoke to the additional information that I had been given: that there had been a complaint about the Claimant that was being investigated. The Claimant's staff member told me that he would get the message to the Claimant, and that she would return my call. I left him with my mobile number and instructions that the Claimant could reach me at any time. I did not receive any return telephone call from the Claimant, and I heard nothing further from her, in relation to the Article…"
vii) When he was cross-examined, the Second Defendant said that he had no recollection of having left a voicemail message that afternoon, but that, if Ms Freeney and Mr Hall had a clear recollection of one having been left, he was prepared to accept that he may well have done. He also had a recollection of only having made one call to the constituency office.
i) that the Second Defendant had left a voicemail which was picked up by Ms Freeney;
ii) that the Second Defendant made only one call to the Claimant's office and that it must have gone to voicemail (i.e. that the call made by the Second Defendant at 16.07 went to voicemail and was not answered, by a man, as claimed by the Second Defendant); and
iii) that the Second Defendant did not speak to Mr Hall that afternoon and there was no other male in the office to whom he could have spoken.
i) Mr Hall would not have told the Second Defendant that the Claimant was in the office when she was not.
ii) The terms of Mr Hall's email to the Claimant (at 16.42) are inconsistent with Mr Hall having had a conversation with the Second Defendant, only some 30 minutes beforehand. If the Second Defendant had given Mr Hall the information he claims he provided, then Mr Hall would, I find, have:
(1) considered the matter urgent, and would almost certainly have telephoned the Claimant;
(2) given her the further information that the Second Defendant provided during the call and which he said he intended to publish; and
(3) warned the Claimant that the Article was going to be published that evening.
iii) Finally, as was apparent when he gave evidence, Mr Hall also has a stammer. Had the Second Defendant spoken to Mr Hall on the telephone that would have been a memorable fact that I am satisfied the Second Defendant would have mentioned.
The Second Defendant's investigation of the procedure for joining Unite Community
"Here's the thing yesterday @skwawkbox run an article that a Lab MP had join Unite Community & saying she'd falsely declared she was unemployed.
I wondered if it stipulated whether only unemployed people were eligible & once reading some of the info online it seemed unclear so I thought the only way to see if you're asked to declare unemployment during the online joining process was to join myself. So here we go…"
Ms Curtis then posted screenshots of the stages of the joining process from the First Defendant's website (see  above):
"… From the Unite Community page I clicked the join button and then that I was a UK resident
[Stage 1 screenshot]
Then I'm asked if I want to be pay (sic) by direct debit, if I want to join as a Community member or if I'm retired. I click on Community Member.
[Stage 2 screenshot]
Then I'm told I need to pay by direct debit, so I agreed to that
[Stage 3 screenshot]
It's now full steam ahead. I'm asked for my personal details.
[Stage 4 screenshot]
then more details & it's at this point that I'm asked to tick a data protection statement, this is important as I'll be returning to this later
[Stage 5 screenshot]
Then I opt to pay monthly followed by my bank details. I feel we're getting somewhere now but I've still not been asked my employment status
[Stage 6 screenshot]
Now I'm asked for details of my online log-in
[Stage 7 screenshot]
I'm now near the end as I'm at the confirmation screen, I notice the union rules so I click on that to see if I've missed anything
[Stage 8 screenshot]
… Then that's it I'm done. I'm a Unite Community member & at no point in the process have I been asked my employment status."
"Deeply flawed. The home page *tells* you UC for unwaged people. By applying to join you're declaring you're unwaged. Katie barrel-scraping."
and a little later
"Jesus, you lot. *By joining* you declare you're unwaged. UC is *only* for unwaged, as Unite membership and press offices confirmed."
"I understood from my own knowledge that the concessionary Community membership was restricted to unwaged persons. As part of my checks before publishing the Article, I nevertheless went onto the First Defendant's website to check that that remained the position. I did this in addition to asking the press officer of the First Defendant for confirmation whether MPs had an exemption from the unwaged rule. When I went to the First Defendant's website, the landing pages made clear to me that Unite Community was for unwaged people. I was satisfied that it was sufficiently clear on the First Defendant's website for anyone looking to join Unite Community at the reduced subscription rate that it was for unwaged people only, and certainly to put people on notice that eligibility was an issue they ought to check."
i) was the Claimant aware of this material before completing the membership application; and
ii) had she made any false declarations as part of the online joining process?
Publication of the Article
"The Article was published with a clear view to the public interest. Voting was underway for the General Secretary of the First Defendant, which at that time was the UK's largest trade union. Given the long and historic links between the trade union movement and the Labour Party, the General Secretary of a large and important union such as the First Defendant can have a wide and far-reaching impact on the direction and makeup of the Labour Party and the British political landscape. Moreover, the contest was widely understood to be a proxy for the right-left battle in the Labour Party, given Len McCluskey's strong support for Jeremy Corbyn, and main challenger Gerard Coyne's close alignment with the right of the Labour Party…
With voting already underway, members would be returning their postal ballots steadily on each day that passed up to the closing date of the ballot on 18 April 2018. That method of voting (postal ballots) does not depend on a single polling day, and it was important to get stories out so that as many members as possible had the opportunity to see them before they actually returned their postal vote. Members of the First Defendant, Labour supporters and the wider public had a clear interest in what was happening out of sight and in particular whether the outcome of the election was being influenced by illegitimate means.
My view was that joining the First Defendant in order to cast a vote in the election for General Secretary was legitimate so long as the application was above board, and I actually stated this in the Article… I had myself previously encouraged people to join the First Defendant in order to vote for Len McCluskey…
The Article was in the public interest particularly in circumstances where there were reasonable grounds to suspect that the Claimant, an MP vocal in opposing the First Defendant's general secretary Len McCluskey, had joined the First Defendant in an ineligible category of membership in order to vote surreptitiously while depriving the First Defendant of the subscription to which it was entitled from a joiner in full time employment."
Extent of, and reactions to, publication
i) On 7 April 2017, at 22.07, "Mike Hamblett" commented:
"Too, may gullible female MPs ruining their careers as Mandelson's cannon-fodder."
ii) On 8 April 2017, at 09.20, "simplyshirah" commented:
"Any idea how many MPs have done this? Why is the NEC not taking action against these MPs… There is a lot of bullying, warmongering & corrupt MPs who don't give a toss for the poor. Time to deselect the lot of them."
iii) On 8 April 2017, at 14.39, "4foxandhare" commented:
"Please keep us informed on the outcome of this. I don't have time today to write more but I need to hear that people who have mendaciously joined Unite with the intention of skewing the vote for its leader have been thrown out and publicly disgraced."
i) On the day of publication, John Taylor shared the Article on Facebook, in a group called "Redcar and district 4 Corbyn", and commented: "Looks like someone is under investigation comrades". The posting received numerous responses from other users.
ii) Also on 7 April 2017, Steve Turner, a councillor on Redcar and Cleveland Council for UKIP, shared the Article via Facebook with the comment: "If true, this is a new low even for a career politician like Anna Turley". The post was liked 705 times.
iii) It is apparent from comments posted under the Article on the blog that one reader, "elizapdushku" 'reblogged' the Article on her own blog.
iv) The Article was shared on a Facebook post by Steve Goldswain, one of the Claimant's constituents and a former local Labour councillor, who commented:
"How disappointing that the Redcar MP appears to have lied and said she is unwaged to save £10 per month this is despite picking up £6166.66 a month in her parliamentary wage. Her monthly wage is akin to some Teessider's (sic) yearly wage those that would truly benefit from a reduced union membership rate. Her private school obviously never taught her morals or what integrity means."
v) Chris Williamson, previously the MP for Derby North, sent the Claimant an email on 8 April 2017 advising her that the Article was "doing the rounds on social media".
Events following publication
"Our client did not know when she made her application that the Community membership was reserved for the unwaged. She chose the Community membership because she was aware of some of their work in her local constituency. There was nothing in the forms that she completed online to make her believe that the membership was limited in this way. Our client did not, as alleged sign any declaration to the effect that she was unwaged."
I will need to return to the statement made in the underlined sentence when I deal with the Defendants' allegations that the Claimant's alleged dishonesty in the conduct of her claim should disentitle her to any remedy and/or should lead the Court to strike out her claim as an abuse of process (see Section J below -).
E. The Issues
i) is the First Defendant responsible for publishing the Article on the basis either (a) information was supplied to the Second Defendant; or (b) provision of the Press Statement for publication in the Article?
ii) what is the meaning of the Article (this has been agreed by the parties)?
iii) has publication of the Article caused, or is it likely to cause, serious harm to the reputation of the Claimant? If so,
iv) is the imputation conveyed by the Article substantially true? If not,
v) have the Defendants shown that:
(1) the Article was, or formed part of, a statement on a matter of public interest; and
(2) the Defendants reasonably believed that publishing the statement complained of was in the public interest. If not
vi) should the Claimant's claim be dismissed as an abuse of process, or any remedies to which she would otherwise be entitled, be refused as a result of allegedly false and dishonest statements made in pursuit of her claim? If not
vii) what sum in damages should the Claimant be awarded?
viii) what, if any, further remedies should be granted to the Claimant?
F. Liability for publication
i) either because it caused the publication of the entire Article; or alternatively,
ii) it provided the Press Statement to the Second Defendant for publication aware of the context in which it would be published.
i) where a defendant has authorised the republication of the statement;
ii) where a defendant intended that the statement should be republished;
iii) where the republication of the statement was "the natural consequence" of the original publication; or
iv) where there was a moral obligation to republish the statement.
"To participate in a publication in such a way as to be liable in accordance with the law of defamation is not, I should emphasise, to be equated with being a source of the information contained within the relevant document. There are various acts that can give rise to legal responsibility, for example, encouraging the primary author, supplying him with information intending or knowing that it will be republished, or, if one is in a position to do so, instructing or authorising him to publish it."
"Having made the press release, the defendants may be taken as having intended its dissemination to the news media. However, if, as they contend, the press release was not defamatory of the plaintiffs, then its republication by others in some different form (which may be defamatory) is not their responsibility. In short, responsibility for republication presupposes, not simply the dissemination of material to persons likely to reproduce that material, but that the material disseminated was defamatory."
(see also discussion in -)
(2) the Article
"On a date or dates unknown but, it is to be inferred, … on or shortly before 7 April 2017 [the date of publication of the Article], an employee, representative and/or agent of the First Defendant (or more than one person) disclosed to the Second Defendant that:
(1) the Claimant had become a member of the First Defendant;
(2) her application had been for a particular category of membership, namely community membership; and
(3) a complaint about the Claimant's application had been passed to the First Defendant's Regional Secretary for the north-east, Karen Reay, and the First Defendant was conducting an investigation into the Claimant's application."
I will refer to this as the "Source Information".
i) The provision of the Source Information did not cause the publication of the defamatory material in the Article. Had only the Source Information been published by the Second Defendant, the resulting publication would not have been defamatory of the Claimant. Applying the relevant legal principles (see - above), someone who provides basic non-defamatory facts to a journalist is not liable if the journalist chooses to add a gloss to or interpretation of those facts, or adds further facts, resulting in a published article that defames the subject. What made the Article defamatory of the Claimant was the addition of:
(1) that fact that she had joined Unite Community when, because she was employed, she was not entitled to;
(2) the suggestion that she had falsely declared herself to be unwaged in order to do so; and
(3) the Press Statement that the First Defendant would investigate those (in context, including the Claimant) who joined the union on a fraudulent basis.
Put simply, the provision of the Source Information did not cause the publication of the defamatory sting of the Article.
ii) I have found that the Claimant has failed to prove that anyone at the First Defendant directly supplied the Source Information to the Second Defendant (see  above). Even had the Claimant been able to establish an inferential case to the required standard that someone at the First Defendant must have provided the Source Information, that fact, on its own, would not have established liability of the First Defendant. The Claimant would still have had to establish that the person who had provided the information was someone for whose actions the First Defendant was liable (whether by vicarious liability or otherwise).
(3) the Press Statement
"17B. … by supplying to the Second Defendant [the Press Statement] for publication, caused to be published… the contents of paragraph numbered  in the Article…
17C. The First Defendant was aware of the context in which the Press Statement would be published."
"11B. As to paragraph 17B… it is admitted that the First Defendant is responsible for the Publication of the Press Statement.
11C As to paragraph 17C…, the First Defendant was aware of the following context at the time that it published the Press Statement to the Second Defendant:
(a) The Second Defendant publishes the Skwawkbox blog which had a limited left-wing readership and little traction and coverage with the wider mainstream media.
(b) The Second Defendant was aware that the Claimant had joined the unwaged section of Unite despite being waged and a complaint had been made about this which was being investigated (as in looked into).
(c) The Second Defendant proposed to report this fact and proposed to include the Press Statement supplied by the First Defendant in the Article."
i) Ms Doyle knew that the Press Statement was liable to be included in any article published by the Second Defendant and she also knew the broad gist of the article, and the basic facts relating to the Claimant's joining Unite Community, that the Second Defendant intended to publish and therefore the context in which the Press Statement would appear (see [55(i)] above). Finally, she knew that the Article would identify the Claimant and that the Press Statement she provided would be understood as referring to the Claimant. By giving an 'on-the-record' statement for publication to the Second Defendant, Ms Doyle therefore authorised the publication of the Press Statement knowing that it was liable to be presented in the context in which ultimately appeared in the Article. The fact that the First Defendant could not, once the Press Statement had been provided, have prevented publication of the Article is not an answer.
ii) The Press Statement itself was defamatory of the Claimant. On its own, and in context, it bore (at least) the meaning that there were reasonable grounds to suspect that the Claimant had joined the First Defendant's Community section on a fraudulent basis. It is strongly arguable that it bore a meaning more serious than this. Although there is a reference to an investigation, in context, this is not one to establish whether there has been fraud, but rather what would be done about it. The thrust of Ms Doyle's comment was that those, like the Claimant, who joined the First Defendant on a false basis would be investigated and action taken against them. That meaning, in terms of gravity, was at least as serious as the meaning that the Article as whole ultimately bore. The Article conveyed substantially the same defamatory sting as the Press Statement. This was not a case where the information supplied by a contributor or source was non-defamatory and it was the publisher who subsequently presented it in a way that produced a defamatory sting.
"A media publication will often include some material for which the [source or contributor] bears responsibility and some for which he bears none. ... Such additional material is likely to affect the meaning of the publication. The additional material may make things worse, in which case the [source or contributor] cannot be blamed; or it may make the meaning less damaging, or even innocent, in which case the claimant must take the meaning as it emerges from the entire publication. A source or contributor cannot be sued for a defamatory meaning which only arises from part of the media publication to which he has contributed: see Monks -v- Warwick District Council - (Sharp J).".
(2) Decision on meaning
"there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the Claimant chose to join the Community Section of Unite at a concessionary subscription rate knowing that the section was restricted to unwaged persons and that, by joining it, she submitted an application that she knew was false in this respect, and accordingly acted dishonestly in submitting it."
"there are grounds to suspect that the Claimant joined the Community Section of Unite on a fraudulent basis by declaring herself unwaged, and accordingly acted dishonestly in submitting her membership application."
"a. In its natural and ordinary meaning, the Press Statement meant and was understood to mean that there are grounds to investigate the complaint that had been made about the Claimant choosing to join the Community section of Unite at a cheaper concessionary subscription rate for unwaged persons.
b. In the alternative, in its natural and ordinary meaning, the Press Statement meant and was understood to mean that there are grounds to investigate whether the Claimant chose to join the Community section of Unite at a concessionary subscription rate knowing that the section was restricted to unwaged persons and that, by joining it, she submitted an application that she knew was false in this respect, and accordingly acted dishonestly in submitting it.
c. In the alternative, the Press Statement conveyed the natural and ordinary meaning of the Article as a whole, being the agreed meaning of the Article as approved by the Court. If or to the extent that the Claimant intends to allege a different and more serious meaning at paragraph 19B RAPOC, such allegation is not open to the Claimant, given the agreed meaning which the Court has ordered by way of determination of the preliminary issues."
The final words of sub-paragraph (c) are a reference to the rule that a contributor cannot be held responsible if the meaning of the article in which his/her quote appears is more injurious than the quote itself: (see  above).
"there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the Claimant chose to join the Community Section of Unite at a concessionary subscription rate knowing that the section was restricted to unwaged persons and that, by joining it, she submitted an application that she knew was false in this respect, and accordingly acted dishonestly in submitting it."
H. Serious Harm
"A statement is not defamatory unless its publication has caused or is likely to cause serious harm to the reputation of the claimant"
i) s.1 raised the threshold of seriousness above the tendency of defamatory words to cause damage to reputation; the application of the test of serious harm must be determined "by reference to actual facts about its impact and not just to the meaning of the words" -.
ii) Reference to the situation where the statement "has caused" serious harm is to the consequences of publication, and not the publication itself :
"It points to some historic harm, which is shown to have actually occurred. This is a proposition of fact which can be established only by reference to the impact which the statement is shown actually to have had. It depends on a combination of the inherent tendency of the words and their actual impact on those to whom they were communicated."
iii) Reference to the situation where the statement "is likely to cause" serious harm was not the synonym of "liable to cause" in the sense of the inherent tendency of defamatory words to cause damage to reputation: .
iv) The conditions under s.1 must be established as facts  and "necessarily calls for an investigation of the actual impact of the statement": ; a claimant must demonstrate as a fact that the harm caused by the publication complained of was serious .
v) If serious harm could be demonstrated simply by the inherent tendency of statements to damage reputation, little substantive change would have been effected by the Act :
"The main reason why harm which was less than 'serious' had given rise to liability before the Act was that damage to reputation was presumed from the words alone and might therefore be very different from any damage which could be established in fact. If, as Ms Page submits, the presumption still works in that way, then this anomaly has been carried through into the Act. Suppose that the words amount to a grave allegation against the claimant, but they are published to a small number of people, or to people none of whom believe it, or possibly to people among whom the claimant had no reputation to be harmed. The law's traditional answer is that these matters may mitigate damages but do not affect the defamatory character of the words. Yet it is plain that section 1 was intended to make them part of the test of the defamatory character of the statement."
vi) A claimant may produce evidence from publishees of the statement complained of about its impact on them, but his/her case does not necessarily fail for want of such evidence; inferences of fact as to the seriousness of harm done to reputation may be drawn from the evidence as a whole .
vii) In Mr Lachaux's case, the finding that serious harm had been proved was based on a combination of (a) the meaning of the words; (b) the situation of the claimant; (c) the circumstances of publication; and (d) the inherent probabilities.
viii) A judge's task is to evaluate the material before him/her and arrive at a conclusion, recognising that this is an issue on which precision will rarely be possible .
ix) The judge can consider the impact of the publication upon people who do not presently know the claimant but might get to know him/her in the future .
 In summary, my conclusion is that by section 1(1) of the 2013 Act Parliament intended to and did provide that a statement is not defamatory of a person unless it has caused or will probably cause serious harm to that person's reputation, these being matters that must be proved by the claimant on the balance of probabilities. The court is not confined, when deciding this question, to considering only the defamatory meaning of the words and the harmful tendency of that meaning. It may have regard to all the relevant circumstances, including evidence of what has actually happened after publication. Serious harm may be proved by inference, but the evidence may or may not justify such an inference.
i) In an appropriate case, a Claimant can also rely upon the likely 'percolation' or 'grapevine effect' of defamatory publications, which has been "immeasurably enhanced" by social media and modern methods of electronic communication: Cairns -v- Modi  1 WLR 1015  per Lord Judge LCJ. In the memorable words of Bingham LJ in Slipper -v- British Broadcasting Corporation  1 QB 283, 300:
"… the law would part company with the realities of life if it held that the damage caused by publication of a libel began and ended with publication to the original publishee. Defamatory statements are objectionable not least because of their propensity to percolate through underground channels and contaminate hidden springs."
ii) It is well-recognised that a claimant may struggle to identify, or to produce evidence from, all those to whom an article was published and in whose eyes the claimant's reputation was damaged: Doyle -v- Smith  EMLR 15 [122(iv)]; Sobrinho -v- Impresa Publishing SA  EMLR 12 ; Ames -v- Spamhaus  1 WLR 3409 .
iii) Assessment of harm to reputation has never been just a 'numbers game': "one well-directed arrow [may] hit the bull's eye of reputation" and cause more damage than indiscriminate firing: King -v- Grundon  EWHC 2719 (QB)  per Sharp J. Very serious harm to reputation can be caused by publication to a relatively small number of publishees: Sobrinho ; Dhir -v- Sadler  EWHC 2935 (QB) [55(i)]; Monir -v- Wood  EWHC 3525 (QB) .
i) The Claimant's evidence that "any whiff of dishonesty" is "hugely damaging to anyone's reputation and is particularly damaging to an MP", which would also apply to anyone standing for election to be returned as an MP.
ii) The evidence of reaction of various individuals to the Article - said to be "doing the rounds on social media" – including comments of readers and its use by political opponents of the Claimant (see - above).
iii) The Second Defendant's acceptance when he gave evidence that, in general terms, his blog was having "a substantial impact" and had risen to some prominence by April 2017.
iv) The evidence that, following publication, the Second Defendant had promoted the Article – by sending Tweets – to mainstream media outlets and journalists, although there is no evidence that any of them picked up the story.
i) Mr Hall's evidence was that he was "aware that Skwawkbox existed but did not consider them to be a credible media organisation";
ii) about 2 months after publication of the Article, the Claimant was re-elected with a significant increase in the number of votes she received (see  above);
iii) the Article was not picked up or published by the national media. It had a relatively low number of readers who would have been aware of the editorial policy of the blog and would have appreciated that it was published in a highly political context. They would have seen it as part of the 'rough and tumble' of politics;
iv) the Article did not state that the Claimant was guilty of impropriety but that there were reasonable grounds to suspect that she had claimed a concessionary subscription rate knowing that she was not entitled to it; and
v) the Article made it clear that it was reporting on the unresolved question of whether or not the Claimant had, in plain words or by omission, declared herself unwaged to join a low-cost section of Unite. Readers would understand that the complaint which had been made against the Claimant had not been decided or upheld and they would therefore suspend judgment pending the outcome of the complaint.
(3) Decision on Serious Harm
i) Although this is a Chase Level 2 meaning, the conduct of which the Claimant was said reasonably to be suspected of having committed is serious; it concerned her integrity and honesty, qualities generally expected of someone holding a public office. Although ordinarily the fact of someone joining Unite Community might be regarded as a fairly trivial matter, the Article suggested that there were reasonable grounds to suspect that, in her case, the Claimant had acted dishonestly when she did so. Even allowing for the 'rough and tumble' of political commentary, that was a serious allegation to make against anyone, particularly a Member of Parliament.
ii) The Claimant has produced evidence of actual harm to reputation caused by the publication of the Article (see -). This is clear evidence of what has been described in previous cases as "tangible adverse consequences"; adverse reactions to the publication expressed on social media, or other "visible re-publication and comment": Ames . Further, those who publicly commented adversely by posting comments under the Article will inevitably represent only a fraction of those who will have held similar views having read the Article, but who did not want to post them publicly on the blog.
iii) I cannot accept Mr Hudson QC's submissions that the typical readership of The Skwawkbox (an issue on which I have no real evidence) makes it less likely that serious harm has been caused to the Claimant's reputation. There is a danger of generalising here, but even if there is a 'typical' reader of The Skwawkbox who held some pre-existing hostility towards the Claimant – either because she had campaigned against Jeremy Corbyn or because she was perceived by such a reader as being on the 'right-wing' of the Labour Party – this cannot lead to the conclusion that such a reader would discount what they read about the Claimant in the Article. On the contrary, any readers who already had a negative view of the Claimant were likely to have that reinforced by the allegations in the Article. Indeed, there is evidence that at least one political opponent of the Claimant took the opportunity to circulate further the Article (see [80(ii)] above).
iv) Insofar as Mr Hudson QC was suggesting that The Skwawkbox was not generally regarded as credible by its readers, I share the scepticism of Warby J when a similar submission was made to him in Doyle -v- Smith [122(iii)]:
"I am not clear about the basis on which it is submitted that other people would have had 'very significant doubts as to whether it was credible.' If the argument for Mr Smith is that he was not a credible source in the eyes of his own readers, I reject it. This is an inherently odd argument, as it presupposes that people opt to read material which they do not consider credible. I deal with the argument further below, in the context of the Second Article, but note here that Mr Smith's own evidence was that after he published the First Article, people were coming up to him in the street and asking what it was all about. This supports the view that there was widespread interest and that he was regarded as a trustworthy source."
I suppose that there may be cases in which the evidence shows that the almost uniform reaction to the publication of some seriously defamatory allegation is derision and ridicule of the publisher. That, by contrast, might provide a firm evidential basis upon which to invite the Court to conclude that, notwithstanding the gravity of the defamatory allegation, it had not in fact caused serious harm to reputation. That is not this case. On the contrary, in this case, the social media and other visible commentary supports the Claimant's contention that serious harm to her reputation was caused by the publication of the Article.
v) I do not consider that the increase in votes for the Claimant in the 2017 general election rebuts the evidence that the Article caused serious harm to the Claimant's reputation. I do not know how many of the electors in the Claimant's constituency had read the Article and whether any of them nevertheless chose still to vote for the Claimant. It is not possible to draw any firm conclusions from this evidence.
"It is a defence to an action for defamation for the defendant to show that the imputation conveyed by the statement complained of is substantially true."
(1) There is a rule of general application in defamation (dubbed the "repetition rule" by Hirst L.J. in Shah -v- Standard Chartered Bank  QB 241) whereby a defendant who has repeated an allegation of a defamatory nature about the claimant can only succeed in justifying it by proving the truth of the underlying allegation – not merely the fact that the allegation has been made;
(2) More specifically, where the nature of the plea is one of "reasonable grounds to suspect", it is necessary to plead (and ultimately prove) the primary facts and matters giving rise to reasonable grounds of suspicion objectively judged;
(3) It is impermissible to plead as a primary fact the proposition that some person or persons (e.g. law enforcement authorities) announced, suspected or believed the claimant to be guilty;
(4) A defendant may (for example, in reliance upon the Civil Evidence Act 1995) adduce hearsay evidence to establish a primary fact – but this in no way undermines the rule that the statements (still less beliefs) of any individual cannot themselves serve as primary facts;
(5) Generally, it is necessary to plead allegations of fact tending to show that it was some conduct on the claimant's part that gave rise to the grounds of suspicion (the so-called "conduct rule").
(6) It was held by this court in Chase at - that this is not an absolute rule, and that for example "strong circumstantial evidence" can itself contribute to reasonable grounds for suspicion.
(7) It is not permitted to rely upon post-publication events in order to establish the existence of reasonable grounds, since (by way of analogy with fair comment) the issue has to be judged as at the time of publication.
(8) A defendant may not confine the issue of reasonable grounds to particular facts of his own choosing, since the issue has to be determined against the overall factual position as it stood at the material time (including any true explanation the claimant may have given for the apparently suspicious circumstances pleaded by the defendant).
(9) … [T]he defendant may rely upon facts subsisting at the time of publication even if he was unaware of them at that time.
(10) A defendant may not plead particulars in such a way as to have the effect of transferring the burden to the claimant of having to disprove them.
 The "conduct rule" and "circumstantial evidence" have been further elucidated.
(i) While it is an essential requisite of a Chase level 2 defence… that the particulars must focus on the conduct of the claimant said to give rise to the suspicion, in a complicated case it may be necessary to portray some of the background and to connect the main facts relied upon. But the fundamental – and ultimate – question is: whether taken as a whole the particulars demonstrate conduct of the claimant that gives rise to the suspicion: in other words, on the facts pleaded, a person could suspect that the claimant was implicated: Miller -v- Associated Newspapers Ltd  EWHC 3721 (QB) - per Sharp J; and Miah -v- British Broadcasting Corpn  EWHC 1054 (QB) - per Warby J.
(ii) In JSC BTA Bank -v- Ablyazov (No.8)  1 WLR 1331 , Rix LJ said:
"It is, however, the essence of a successful case of circumstantial evidence that the whole is stronger than individual parts. It becomes a net from which there is no escape. That is why a jury is often directed to avoid piecemeal consideration of a circumstantial case: R -v- Hillier (2007) 233 ALR 634... Or, as Lord Simon of Glaisdale put it in R -v- Kilbourne  AC 729, 758, 'Circumstantial evidence … works by cumulatively, in geometrical progression, eliminating other possibilities'."
 I have no difficulty with the interplay between circumstantial evidence and the "conduct rule". To take an example, in a drugs importation conspiracy it is usual for the prosecution to rely upon a number of sources of evidence including, typically: (1) cell-site analysis showing the presence of mobile telephones at various locations; (2) calls and messages passing between those telephones; and (3) ANPR and CCTV "hits" of various vehicles at particular places. If the same factual issues arose in defence of a libel claim, including alleged facts from these three categories, there would be some evidence in each that did not focus on the conduct of the claimant; indeed, there is likely to be evidence relating to the activities of the other alleged conspirators. However, the strength of the case, and why it gives rise to suspicion falling on the claimant is that, cumulatively and taken together, the evidence implicates the claimant because of his connection to the evidence as a whole. What matters, and what would be essential for the truth defence to have a realistic prospect of success, is the evidential link to the claimant. Without that, the rest of the evidence cannot give rise to a reasonable suspicion.
"It follows from … the fact that the existence of grounds for suspicion is to be judged objectively, that the question for the court when considering a defence of justification is whether, viewed at the date of publication, the claimant had behaved in a way that would give a reasonable person grounds for suspecting him of the wrongdoing in question. That much was not in dispute. Nor, subject to one point, was it in dispute that the reasonable person is to be taken to be aware of all the primary facts and matters subsisting at the date of publication: see King, principles (8) and (9). The allegation that the claimant has behaved in such a way as to bring suspicion on himself necessarily assumes the response of a reasonable person to observable primary facts. A person's conduct can be observed and assessed, but his state of mind cannot, except by inference from other, primary, facts…"
And later in :
"It is necessary to remember that a Chase Level 2 imputation involves an allegation that the claimant has by his conduct brought suspicion upon himself. That is a matter to be judged objectively by reference to the facts, taken as a whole, as they were at the time of publication and as they would be viewed by an ordinary reasonable person." (emphasis added)
"… in seeking to justify a Chase Level 2 imputation, both parties are entitled to rely on facts as they were at the date of publication, whether they knew them or not…"
"… it is necessary to draw a distinction between events occurring after the date of publication and statements, whenever made, which tend to prove or disprove the existence of facts subsisting at the date of publication. The latter are admissible. The former are not."
"… [A] defence of this kind is to be determined objectively by reference to the facts at the date of publication. I agree… that attempts by a claimant after the event to explain away his actions cannot help, but I can see no reason why evidence given a trial which sheds light on matters that occurred before the date of publication should be excluded just because it comes from the claimant, although that might be a reason for looking at it with some care."
i) whether there exist grounds for suspicion is to be judged objectively at the date of publication;
ii) the question is whether, viewed at the date of publication, the claimant had behaved in a way that would give a reasonable person grounds for suspecting him of the wrongdoing in question;
iii) events that occur after publication – including attempts by a claimant after the event to explain away his/her actions – are to be excluded from consideration, but statements, whenever made, which tend to prove or disprove the existence of facts subsisting at the date of publication are admissible; and
iv) because the Court is required to make an objective assessment, it is to be determined by reference to all relevant facts at the date of publication not just those facts which were known to the publisher or included in the publication.
i) The defendant has to establish the "essential" or "substantial" truth of the sting of the alleged libel: Bokova [28(i)].
ii) The court should not be too literal in its approach. Proof of every detail is not required where the relevant fact is not essential to the sting of the publication. The task is "to isolate the essential core of the libel and not be distracted by inaccuracies around the edge - however extensive": Bokova [28(ii)].
iii) In deciding whether any given defamatory imputation is substantially true, the court will have well in mind the requirement to allow for exaggeration, at the margins, and have regard in that context also to proportionality. Having regard to its overall gravity and the relative significance of any elements of inaccuracy or exaggeration, has the substantial sting been proved? It is no part of the court's function to penalise a defendant for sloppy journalism – still less for tastelessness of style: Turcu -v- News Group Newspapers Ltd  EWHC 799 (QB)  and  per Eady J.
i) On the basis of the primary facts (objectively judged) a reasonable person would suspect that the Claimant knew – when she applied to join Unite at a concessionary subscription rate – that she was not eligible for that concessionary subscription rate of membership.
ii) A reasonable person would therefore suspect that the Claimant had submitted an application that was false and that accordingly she had acted dishonestly in submitting her application to join Unite at the concessionary subscription rate.
iii) A reasonable person would expect the Claimant (an MP and trade union member) to have checked her eligibility for a special discounted concessionary rate of membership of Unite before applying for (and thereby declaring/indicating that she was eligible) and obtaining that concessionary rate of membership. Had the Claimant carried out even the most cursory check then it would have been obvious that she was not eligible for such membership.
iv) A reasonable person would suspect that the Claimant had known she was not eligible to benefit from that concessionary subscription rate but had applied for it nonetheless because of her very strong desire to join Unite to vote in the General Secretary election and – critically – to join without being noticed by Mr McCluskey and/or the First Defendant. The only way that the Claimant could do that was by applying for and obtaining the category of membership which was for those not in work and therefore which did not require applicants to provide details of their occupation, workplace etc.
i) when cross-examined, the Claimant accepted that she wanted to join Unite so as to enable her to vote in the 2016/17 General Secretary election and that she wanted to join without being noticed by Mr McCluskey and/or the First Defendant because she was concerned that if her application was noticed she thought that efforts would be made to prevent her from voting in the election;
ii) Unite Community membership entitled a member to vote in the 2016/17 General Secretary election: Rule 15.1 (see Appendix 2);
iii) Unite Community membership was available only to those not in paid employment: Rule 28.1;
iv) as a result, the Claimant was not eligible to join Unite on the special discounted subscription rate available to those not in work;
v) the subscription rate for Unite Community membership was a special discounted rate category of 50p per week (or £2.17 per month);
vi) the Claimant knew that the subscription rate for Unite Community was "cheaper" and was many times cheaper than the subscription rate payable by a worker;
vii) Unite's website, brochures, leaflets and videos all made it clear that Unite Community membership was available only to those not in paid employment;
viii) because Unite Community membership was for those not in paid employment applicants would not be asked for any details about their occupation, employer, workplace, etc.; and
ix) the Claimant chose, however, to apply for the special discounted rate category of 50p per week (which was restricted to people not working or in further education).
i) When the Claimant replied to Mr Coan's email of 1 March 2017 (see - above), she simply asserted that she "didn't realise [she] had joined the wrong section". She did not give any explanation as to how she had come to do that or why she thought she was eligible for Unite Community membership. Mr Hudson QC argues that a reasonable person could properly take the view that the Claimant "would say that, wouldn't she" as the Claimant could not be expected to admit that she had applied for the discounted rate knowing that she was not eligible for it.
ii) The Claimant did not give any (much less any credible) explanation as to why she believed that she was eligible for the hugely discounted subscription rate. A reasonable person would, the Defendants argue, also consider it telling that after being contacted by Mr Coan on 1 March 2017, and following her reply on 7 March 2017, the Claimant took no steps to transfer her membership to the correct subscription rate and pay to Unite the money she owed. The Claimant ignored repeated calls and emails from Ms Ridley and Mr Coan from March 2017. This, it is submitted, was not consistent with the behaviour of someone who had made a genuine mistake.
iii) When the Claimant was contacted by the Second Defendant prior to publication on 7 April 2017, it was clear from his first email (see  above) that he was asking the Claimant to comment on why she had joined a section of Unite for unemployed people rather than joining the main Unite union for an extra £10 or so a month. The Second Defendant followed that email up with another email, at 15:53 (see  above), and a telephone call to the Claimant's office at 16:07. The Claimant did not respond to the Second Defendant before (or after) publication and she did not provide any explanation for why she applied for (and obtained) a concessionary subscription rate to which she was not entitled. Mr Hudson QC submits that a reasonable person would consider that – at the very least – highly suspicious and indicative of the fact that the Claimant could not give an innocent explanation for her conduct which was in clear breach of Unite's rules.
i) The Claimant was sent the link to join Unite Community by Ms Smeeth, and it is clear, from the WhatsApp messages, that she completed the process within a few minutes (see  and  above).
ii) The Claimant's evidence, clear and not shaken in the witness box, was that she had not seen or read any of the published materials relating to Unite Community to which she was taken. Only two of the videos that were played during the trial were actually available online when she completed the online application to become a member of Unite Community. Neither did the Claimant read the Rule Book.
iii) The case put to the Claimant in cross-examination was, in substance, that had she had been negligent in not researching eligibility requirements. Mr Hudson QC had put it to the Claimant that: "It was plain and obvious to anyone who bothered to check, that you were not entitled to be a member of Unite Community." Later, when cross-examined about the membership categories offered by the First Defendant, it was put to the Claimant that "anyone who bothers to check" would have appreciated the eligibility requirements for Unite Community Membership. But negligence is not sting of the defamatory allegation.
iv) The Claimant was clear in her evidence that she had no reason to doubt her eligibility. Her evidence was that she was aware of Unite Community, and had seen it campaigning in her local area. She had understood that it was "doing something quite ground-breaking and new" and that she welcomed that. She stated that she "thought anyone could join" and that it was not her understanding at the time she joined that Unite Community was reserved exclusively for the unwaged. There was nothing in the surrounding circumstances of her application to throw doubt on that.
v) Ms Smeeth provided the link to join Unite Community in a private WhatsApp group of MPs who were political allies. Her encouragement of the Clamant to join Unite Community did not suggest that there would be any issues about her eligibility. Ms Smeeth was a person who the Claimant trusted.
vi) The application process asks no questions about a person's employment status. Further, the Claimant's evidence was that, when she clicked on the link and started to apply, she did not know what questions would be asked.
vii) The automatic email generated in response to the Claimant's membership application says nothing about eligibility for Unite Community membership.
viii) The cheap rate for Unite Community membership cannot, of itself, provide grounds to suspect. The Defendants conceded that there existed people not eligible for membership of Unite Community who had joined by mistake. The relative cost of Unite Community membership measured against 'full' membership was explicable in ways other than the fact that it was reserved for those not in paid employment. In any event, as to the cost, the Claimant said in her evidence: "In as much as I even thought about it. Fee was not an issue" and she compared it with membership of the RSPB. She was, she said, not expecting to get work-place representation from Unite Community membership.
ix) When her ineligibility for Unite Community membership was pointed out to her (in Mr Coan's email of 1 March 2017), the Claimant responded in a straightforward manner, with an apology and a request to be moved to the correct membership category. The criticism of the Claimant for failing to take steps herself to switch the membership category is criticised by Ms Wilson as unrealistic. It could equally be said that it would have been a simple matter for the First Defendant to effect the switch.
(3) Decision on truth
i) The Claimant joined Unite Community in less than 10 minutes late in the evening on 5 December 2016. She did so because she was encouraged to do so by Ruth Smeeth, someone that she trusted, by completing the online process on the First Defendant's website. At no stage of that online process was the Claimant required to confirm or declare that she was not in employment and/or that she was eligible for Unite Community membership. Further there was nothing in the online joining process that alerted potential members to the eligibility criteria for Unite Community membership.
ii) The First Defendant's Rule Book did make it clear that Unite Community membership was limited to those who were not in (or seeking) employment. The Claimant was, as a matter of fact, therefore, not eligible to join Unite Community. However, the online joining process did not require an applicant to confirm that s/he had read the Rule Book. An applicant who wanted to learn more about the rules would have to click the relevant link at Stage 8 and then follow one of the further links to reach the Rule Book (see [20(viii)] above). The Claimant did not read the Rule Book before she joined; she was ignorant of the fact that she was ineligible for membership.
iii) Whilst the Rule Book was clear, I do not consider that the other material published by the First Defendant describing Unite Community made it clear that Unite Community was exclusively for those who were not in work (see - above). Of more relevance are the facts, accepting that Claimant's evidence on these points, (a) that she had not read or watched these materials before completing her application; and (b) that she relied upon her own experience of Unite Community and did not realise that she was not entitled to join because she was in employment.
iv) Neither the email welcoming her to membership or any events before the Claimant received Mr Coan's email on 1 March 2017 alerted the Claimant to the fact that she was not eligible for Unite Community membership.
v) Once she was alerted to her ineligibility by Mr Coan, the Claimant apologised, stated that she had been unaware that she had joined the wrong section and confirmed that she wished to "transfer to the appropriate membership". I reject Mr Hudson's submissions that this response itself provides grounds to suspect the Claimant of having joined a section of the Union knowing that she was not eligible. On the contrary, I find the Claimant's response to be entirely consistent with her having been made aware, for the first time, that she was not eligible for Unite Community membership.
(B) Publication on a matter of public interest
4. Publication on matter of public interest
(1) It is a defence to an action for defamation for the defendant to show that—
(a) the statement complained of was, or formed part of, a statement on a matter of public interest; and
(b) the defendant reasonably believed that publishing the statement complained of was in the public interest.
(2) Subject to subsections (3) and (4), in determining whether the defendant has shown the matters mentioned in subsection (1), the court must have regard to all the circumstances of the case.
(4) In determining whether it was reasonable for the defendant to believe that publishing the statement complained of was in the public interest, the court must make such allowance for editorial judgement as it considers appropriate.
(5) For the avoidance of doubt, the defence under this section may be relied upon irrespective of whether the statement complained of is a statement of fact or a statement of opinion.
(6) The common law defence known as the Reynolds defence is abolished.
i) As the old common law Reynolds defence (from Reynolds -v- Times Newspapers Ltd  2 AC 127) had done before, the new statutory defence strikes a balance between the rights of freedom of expression and reputation: Economou -, , -; Serafin , ; it applies where the court is satisfied that the public interest justifies publication notwithstanding that it leaves the defamed individual without a remedy for damage to reputation: Serafin  (relying upon Flood -v- Times Newspapers Ltd  2 AC 273  per Lord Phillips).
ii) When considering a defence under s.4, there are three questions to be addressed: Economou :
(1) was the statement complained of, or did it form part of, a statement on a matter of public interest? If so,
(2) did the defendant believe that publishing the statement complained of was in the public interest? If so,
(3) was that belief reasonable?
iii) In s.4(1), "the statement complained of" means "the words complained of" not any defamatory imputation(s) that were conveyed: Economou .
iv) Although s.4(6) has abolished the old Reynolds defence, the rationale for the statutory defence was not materially different and the common law principles remained relevant to the interpretation of the statutory defence: Economou ; Serafin .
v) As had been the case with the Reynolds defence, the statutory defence requires consideration of some specific matters: flexibility in the requirement to have regard to the circumstances of the particular case (s.4(2)); and the requirement to make allowance for editorial judgement (s.4(4)). Finally, the overarching principle is that there is little scope under Article 10(2) of the Convention for restrictions on freedom of expression in relation to questions of public interest: Economou .
Stage 1: a statement on a matter of public interest
vi) Public interest is a broad concept. In Serafin the Court of Appeal gave the following guidance:
 "Public interest" in publication cases (including defamation, confidence, privacy, DPA and copyright cases) is necessarily a broad concept. As Lord Bingham explained in Reynolds -v- Times Newspapers Ltd  2 AC 127, 176-177 (in a passage cited by Lord Phillips in Flood ):
"By ['public interest'] we mean matters relating to the public life of the community and those who take part in it, including within the expression public life activities such as the conduct of government and political life, elections … and public administration, but we use the expression more widely than that, to embrace matters such as (for instance) the governance of public bodies, institutions and companies which give rise to a public interest in disclosure, but excluding matters which are personal and private, such that there is no public interest in their disclosure."
 The CJEU most often define "public interest" material as that which contributes to a debate of general interest. In examining whether material contributes to such a debate, it is relevant to look, in particular, at the context of the publication (see e.g. Bladet Tromsø -v- Norway (2000) 29 EHRR 125 - in which the context was an ongoing public debate in Norway about seal hunting).
 Gatley on Libel and Slander (12th edn., at §15.6) contains the following useful list of subject-matter which has previously been held to be in the public interest:
"[T]he business of government and political conduct; the promotion of animal welfare, the protection of health and safety, the dealings of an MP with a foreign regime hostile to this country, the fair and proper administration of justice, the conduct of religious groups; discipline in schools; the conduct of the police; cheating, corruption and the pressure on elite athletes from an early age in sport; breach of charitable fiduciary rules; involvement in serious crimes, corporate malpractice; and the correction of prior misrepresentations by others".
Stage 2: did the defendant believe that publication was in the public interest
vii) A defendant wishing to rely upon the defence must have believed that what s/he published was in the public interest: Economou [139(2)] and  per Warby J (at first instance:  EMLR 4). The defendant must have addressed his/her mind to the issue. This element of the defence is not established by showing that a notional reasonable person could have believed that the publication was in the public interest, but that the relevant defendant did believe that it was. In terms of evidence, if a defendant leaves this issue unaddressed in his/her witness evidence, the defence is likely to fail at this initial hurdle.
viii) The belief is to be assessed at the time of publication: Economou [139(3)] per Warby J.
Stage 3: was the belief reasonable
ix) Lord Nicholls' non-exhaustive list of ten factors remain relevant considerations: Economou ; Serafin , ; albeit that the standard of conduct required of the publisher must be applied in a "practical and flexible manner, and must have regard to practical realities": Economou ; Serafin ;
x) Also, of continuing relevance is what Lord Nicholls said about hindsight and the importance of the role of the media (from Reynolds at p.205E-F): Economou ; Serafin :
"…it should always be remembered that journalists act without the benefit of the clear light of hindsight. Matters that are obvious in retrospect may have been far from clear in heat of the moment. Above all, the court should have particular regard to the importance of freedom of expression. The press discharges vital functions as a bloodhound as well as a watchdog. The court should be slow to conclude that a publication was not in the public interest and, therefore, the public had no right to know, especially when the information is in the field of political discussion. Any lingering doubts should be resolved in favour of publication."
xi) The defence is available to anyone who publishes material of public interest in any medium. The question in each case is whether the defendant behaved fairly and reasonably in gathering and publishing the information: Economou ; "could whoever published the defamation, given what they knew (and did not know) and whatever they had done (and had not done) to guard as far as possible against the publication of untrue defamatory material, properly have considered the publication in question to be in the public interest?": Economou  (taken from Flood );
xii) It would be hard to describe a belief as reasonable if it has been arrived at without care, without any examination of the relevant factors or without engaging in appropriate enquiries; a belief for the purposes of s.4(1)(b) would be reasonable, only if it is arrived at after conducting such enquiries and checks as it is reasonable to expect of the particular defendant in all the circumstances of the case: Economou ;
xiii) A further relevant consideration will be the particular role played by the defendant. For example, was s/he a professional journalist or publisher, or a contributor/source? Whilst the matters identified in the non-exhaustive checklist will remain relevant, the weight to be given to them in any particular case may vary from case to case: Economou ;
xiv) The meaning that the defendant intended to convey might be relevant to his subjective belief, and to the objective reasonableness of that belief, but there were limits to the latitude to be allowed for unintended or ambiguous meanings: Economou , ; Bonnick -v- Morris  1 AC 300 -;
xv) It is a basic requirement of fairness and responsible journalism that someone who is going to publish a defamatory allegation against a person without being required to show that it is true should give him/her a fair opportunity to put his/her side of the story; this is one of the 'core' Reynolds factors: Serafin , -. This is not only to be fair to the subject, it recognises that the subject may well have relevant factual information to provide that may affect the decision to publish or the terms in which the publication is presented: Reynolds p.205. The importance of making an attempt to present the subject of the publication's side of the story may require the publisher to consider whether others who could reasonably be expected to have relevant information about the allegations should be approached: Serafin .
xvi) Although as recognised in Reynolds (p.205) it will not always be necessary to approach the subject of a defamatory article for comment prior to publication, the circumstances in which a publisher will be able to satisfy the Court that it was reasonable not to have done so will necessarily be rare: Serafin .
(a) on a matter of public interest
i) The Article was clearly on a matter of public interest because:
(1) the Clamant was an MP with a well-publicised political position opposed to Jeremy Corbyn's leadership of the Labour party;
(2) the Article was published during the course of a contest for the position of General Secretary of the First Defendant, occupied at the material time by Mr McCluskey;
(3) the Claimant had, in her Tweet dated 12th July 2016 (see  of the Article), sought to encourage people to join the First Defendant in order to vote to remove Mr McCluskey;
(4) the Article related directly to both the Claimant's earlier tweet encouraging people to join the First Defendant, to facilitate the removal of Mr McCluskey, and the leadership contest; and
(5) the Article raised questions as to whether there were reasonable grounds to suspect that the Claimant had knowingly submitted a false application, and had thus acted dishonestly in doing so.
ii) The Article was about the conduct of an MP and the legitimacy of her actions in claiming a concessionary subscription rate to which she was not entitled as part of seeking to participate in the election of the General Secretary of Unite. The election of the General Secretary of Unite was of considerable public interest as it was likely to have a bearing on the future direction of the main Opposition party only a few months before the 2017 General Election.
(b) Reasonable belief of the Second Defendant
iii) The Second Defendant reasonably believed that publishing the Article was in the public interest for the reasons identified in [141(i)] above and also:
(1) the Second Defendant had verified the relevant information he received with a reliable source, namely Ms Doyle;
(2) the Second Defendant had taken steps to obtain the Claimant's comments on matters contained within the Article, through two emails, and one telephone call, on 7 April 2017, to which the Claimant had failed to provide any response; and
(3) the Article was from an avowedly political standpoint, where the subject matter of the article had been advocating entryism, in the context of a highly contested election. Accordingly, the high degree of protection afforded by Article 10 ECHR to political speech, should apply.
iv) The Second Defendant's belief was reasonable for the reasons he gave in evidence, in summary:
(1) The Article was drafted carefully so as not to make an allegation of guilt. The Second Defendant intended to suggest that the issue of whether the Claimant had joined Unite Community by making a false declaration needed to be investigated. Specifically, paragraph  of the Article urged the First Defendant to investigate all applications for Unite Community membership.
(2) The Article was published at a time when voting was underway in the election of the First Defendant's General Secretary. The First Defendant's influence of the Labour Party, meant that the General Secretary election was "widely understood to be a proxy for the right-left battle in the Labour Party, given Len McCluskey's strong support for Jeremy Corbyn..."
(3) The closing date for members of the First Defendant to submit votes in the General Secretary election was 18 April 2017. Those electors had a clear interest in "what was happening out of sight and in particular whether the outcome of the election was being influenced by illegitimate means" (i.e. people joining the First Defendant to vote in the election in categories of membership to which they were not eligible to join).
(4) The Claimant and others' public opposition to the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.
(5) The Second Defendant was not motivated by any animus towards the Claimant. He had previously supported her by assisting with door-to-door campaigning when she first stood for election.
v) The Second Defendant conducted such checks and enquiries as were appropriate in all the circumstances. He gave the Claimant three opportunities to comment prior to publication. The primary allegation was that the Claimant had joined the section of Unite for unemployed people rather than paying more to join the main section of Unite. This was made clear in the email of 15:17. The Second Defendant clearly warned that the Article was going to be published that night. The Claimant chose not to respond. If she was unable to respond, one of her (at least 3) members of staff who were working that day could have done, providing either a response/comment and/or asking him to delay publication to give the Claimant further time to respond. The Second Defendant was entitled to proceed on the basis that the Claimant was not going to provide a comment for the Article. This was confirmed by the fact that the Claimant did not contact the Second Defendant after publication of the Article other than by sending the letter of claim.
(c) Reasonable belief of the First Defendant
vi) The First Defendant reasonably believed that publication of the Article was in the public interest on the basis of its reasonable belief that publication of the quote it provided to the Second Defendant was in the public interest. It was entirely reasonable for Ms Doyle to believe that providing the quote/comment to the Second Defendant in the terms she did was in the public interest. It was appropriate for the First Defendant to respond to the well-informed query from the Second Defendant about the actions of an MP. The quote provided was limited, factual and moderate. It simply confirmed what the Second Defendant already knew; that there had been a complaint about the Claimant's membership of Unite Community, and it was being investigated.
i) the Claimant was a Labour MP who had opposed Jeremy Corbyn's leadership;
ii) the election for the position of General Secretary of the First Defendant was imminent, and the incumbent was Mr McCluskey, a supporter of Mr Corbyn; and
iii) the Claimant had sent a Tweet on 12 July 2016 about joining the Labour Party by way of membership of the First Defendant and had referred to Mr McCluskey in pejorative terms in it.
i) In respect of the Second Defendant, there is a complete absence of any documents demonstrating his investigation, or the gathering of information or verification by him. This is wholly contrary to any notion of responsible journalism or of the Second Defendant establishing any basis of the belief he claimed to have held, still less a reasonable one. The absence of documents is equally consistent with the Second Defendant merely getting his story from the First Defendant, typing it up and uploading it and publishing to the world at large.
ii) The Article stated, twice, that an applicant has to make a false declaration. This was a critical fact which could easily have been checked but which the Second Defendant had failed to check.
iii) The Second Defendant's efforts to contact the Claimant prior to publication were manifestly insufficient. The email at 15:17 on 7 April 2017 ( above) gives an inaccurate description of the allegations about the Claimant which, subject to her comments, the Second Defendant intended to publish. The subsequent email at 15.53 chasing a response ( above) did not remedy that deficiency.
iv) As to the First Defendant, there is no evidence before the Court that Ms Doyle or anyone at Unite had the relevant reasonable belief.
(3) Decision on publication on a matter of public interest
(a) Statement on a matter of public interest
(b) Belief that publication was in the public interest
(i) The First Defendant
(ii) The Second Defendant
(b) Reasonableness of the belief that publication was in the public interest
(i) The First Defendant
i) The inquiries that Ms Doyle had carried out had led her to establish that the only outstanding issue that required any "investigation" or further action by the First Defendant was to ensure that the Claimant's direct debit was amended to the correct level. It is not clear from Ms Doyle's evidence whether she knew from her discussions from Mr Coan that the Claimant had immediately agreed to be moved to the 'correct' category of membership as soon as it had been pointed out to her that she was not entitled to join Unite Community, but this information was readily available to her. As Ms Doyle was inclined to accept in her evidence, it was misleading to describe the situation as the investigation of a complaint.
ii) Ms Doyle's use of the word "fraudulent" in the Press Statement was wholly unwarranted by the facts as Ms Doyle understood them and the investigations that she had carried out. Indeed, it was an astonishing word to use given what Ms Doyle knew of the matter. No one had suggested to Ms Doyle that the Claimant had acted in any way dishonestly. Indeed, the facts available to her suggested that the Claimant had simply made a mistake. Certainly, Mr Coan was only concerned about ensuring that the Claimant was paying the right level of subscriptions. On Ms Doyle's evidence, he had given her absolutely no reason to think that the Claimant had engaged in any sort of deception or dishonesty or that Mr Coan thought that she had.
(ii) The Second Defendant
i) In his original email seeking a comment from the Claimant, the Second Defendant failed to set out a full, accurate and fair summary of the allegations that he intended to publish (see  above). This was a serious failure and one that was not remedied prior to publication. Beyond the fact that the Second Defendant was intending to publish an allegation that the Claimant had joined Unite Community, in order to vote for Gerard Coyne, and had invited the Claimant's comment that she had saved £10 a week by not joining the main union, the Claimant and her staff knew nothing of the allegation of dishonesty that the Second Defendant intended to include in the Article. Prior to publication, the Second Defendant failed to tell the Claimant that the First Defendant had provided the Press Statement for publication which, as I have found (see [55(v)] and [96(ii)]), alleged (at least) that there were reasonable grounds to suspect that the Claimant had joined Unite Community on a fraudulent basis.
ii) I have acknowledged that there are circumstances in which a journalist may reasonably judge that it is necessary (or at least reasonable) to withhold information from the subject of an article when s/he is initially approached (see  above). This was not such a case and, beyond generalities, the Second Defendant has not made any real attempt to suggest that it was. I have rejected his evidence that he spoke to someone at the Claimant's constituency office on the telephone at 16.07 and provided him with details of the allegations that he intended to publish (see - above). The consequence of this decision not to include full, fair and accurate information about the allegations he was going to publish and what the First Defendant had said in the Press Statement that he had obtained was that these important details were not communicated to the Claimant prior to publication and she had no opportunity to comment on or to seek to rebut them.
iii) There may be cases where the evidence supports the conclusion that it was reasonable for the journalist to conclude that a subject, who was approached for comment, had no intention of providing one. This is not one of those cases. In most cases, it is not a reliable or fair assumption that an email is immediately read upon receipt in the ordinary course of events. In this case, the Second Defendant received an auto-response telling him, in terms, that a response to emails might take up to 4 weeks (see  above). The Second Defendant did not claim to have reached the conclusion that the Claimant had no intention of responding, and, objectively judged, the evidence cannot support such a conclusion. Instead he said:
"I had not heard back from the Claimant or from her office staff by 6pm on the evening of 7 April 2017… Had I received any request to delay publication because a response was being considered, I would likely have agreed a reasonable request, say a matter of hours. However, no such request was received… I think three hours is reasonable during working hours and in the circumstances in which there was no request for more time…"
iv) There was no justification for the Second Defendant imposing a deadline on publication, the practical effect of which allowed the Claimant a period of just over 3 hours to respond. Such a timeframe within which to demand a response was arbitrary and unreasonable. Whilst there may be a case where the urgency is such that a timeframe of 3 hours will be found by the Court to be reasonable in the particular circumstances, I would expect such cases to be rare.
v) There was no particular urgency in publishing the Article that evening, and certainly none that justified publication without the Second Defendant either giving the Claimant a fair opportunity to respond or reaching a reasonable conclusion that the Claimant had, with full knowledge of what was about to be published, declined to provide a comment. Neither has been established on the evidence.
vi) In his evidence, the Second Defendant stated that he regarded the closing date for postal ballot in the General Secretary election supplied the element of urgency that justified publication. As I understand his evidence, the suggestion is that those still to cast their vote were entitled to the information in the Article, urgently, as it might affect their voting decision. Necessarily, the argument must be that the information in the Article was of such importance that even waiting until the following day risked electors casting their ballots on some "false basis". I reject this explanation as unconvincing and fanciful, and one that has been contrived after the event. The General Secretary election was, of course, part of the background to the Article. The Claimant was not standing for election, but she was part of a group of "Labour's right-wing faction" who had joined the First Defendant to vote in the General Secretary election (clearly against Mr McCluskey). I can see how this information might possibly influence the voting of someone who was opposed to this form of 'entryism'. Equally it might spur on those who were apathetic supporters of Mr McCluskey actually to cast their vote. But what was not relevant, nor likely to have a real bearing on the General Secretary election, was the claim that the Claimant (and others) had falsely declared themselves unwaged in order to join Unite Community. This was the defamatory part of the Article. It was to this allegation that the Second Defendant needed to give the Claimant a fair opportunity to respond.
J. Abuse of Process
i) Deliberately making false statements in support of a claim is an abuse of the Court's process. Where established, the Court has jurisdiction to strike out a claim for abuse of process even where to do so would defeat the substantive claim. The only limit on that jurisdiction is that the Court must determine cases justly: CPR 1.1 and 1.2. The test in every case must be what is just and proportionate: Summers -v- Fairclough Homes Ltd  1 WLR 2004  and .
ii) Where the alleged abuse of process issue involves conflicting evidence, it ought to be determined following oral evidence, which will usually mean at trial: Alpha Rocks Solicitors -v- Alade  1 WLR 4534  and -.
iii) Striking out a claim as an abuse of process after trial would only be appropriate where the party's abuse was such that s/he had thereby forfeited the right to have the claim determined. Cases in which it would be right, after trial, to strike out for abuse rather than determine the claim on its merits would be very rare or "very exceptional": Summers  and  approving the decision of the Court of Appeal in Masood -v- Zahoor  1 WLR 746 .
iv) It is likely that in many cases, sanctions short of striking out will be sufficient: e.g. adverse inferences being drawn against the relevant party; adverse costs orders and possible exposure to contempt proceedings: Summers .
i) In the Claimant's letters of claim, dated 18 April 2017, it was stated that the Claimant had joined Unite Community "because she was aware of some of their work in her local constituency" (see  above).
ii) The original Particulars of Claim, dated 26 January 2018 and verified with a statement of truth, contained the following paragraphs:
4. In the course of her activities in her constituency, the Claimant learned about the community section of the First Defendant and various campaigns it was running which affected issues of local concern.
5. In late December 2016, the Claimant applied for community membership via the First Defendant's website searched for "join Unite Community", or used similar search terms, on Google and the results included a link to the relevant page of the First Defendant's website, namely www.unitetheunion.org.growing-our-union/communitymembership/. She provided information about her residency in the jurisdiction, selected "Community membership" from the options listed and provided all the required information, namely her name, date of birth, gender, email address, address and bank details. For the avoidance of doubt, the membership application did not include any questions about the Claimant's employment status or similar matters.
6. The Claimant did not discuss her membership application or the fact that she had joined the First Defendant with any third party, other than her husband.
The Claimant was advancing, in addition to her clam for libel, claims for breach of confidence and misuse of private information. Paragraph 6 of the Particulars of Claim was an averment relevant to that claim.
iii) On 22 March 2018, the Defendants' solicitors sent a Part 18 Request for Further Information asking the Claimant to:
"… specify for what period (both before and after the date on which she lodged her membership application) the Claimant denies discussing with anyone, other than her husband, her planned and then ongoing membership application…"
iv) In her evidence at trial, the Claimant stated that her original recollection had been that she had joined Unite Community in the circumstances set out in the original Particulars of Claim but that the Defendants' probing of her claim not to have discussed her Unite Community membership application with anyone other than her husband caused her to carry out a check to see whether she had discussed it with anyone else at the time. One of those checks was to search through her WhatsApp messages. She did this on 22 March 2018. As a result, the Claimant stated that she discovered The Birthday Club WhatsApp messages from 5 December 2016 (see - above). In her evidence she said that she could not believe what she had found as she had no recollection of the exchanges. She was worried – "mortified" – that facts that had been pleaded in the Particulars of Claim were incorrect. That the Clamant carried out such a search is corroborated by the copies of The Birthday Club WhatsApp messages that have been disclosed. In them, the word "Unite" is highlighted indicating that it was used as a search term. In her evidence, the Claimant stated, and I accept, she passed screenshots of The Birthday Club WhatsApp messages that she had found to her solicitors. That would have been on or shortly after 22 March 2018. The Claimant stated, and again I accept, that, at the time, she considered that the information contained in the WhatsApp messages was important and needed to be disclosed to the Defendants. When cross-examined, she agreed with Mr Hudson QC that it was "imperative to correct the position", but said that throughout the litigation she acted on the advice of her solicitors. The Claimant's solicitors did not act immediately to correct the position.
v) On 23 April 2018, a month since discovery of the WhatsApp messages, the Claimant's solicitors sent a response to the Defendants' Part 18 Request:
"We have now had an opportunity to consider with our client the Part 18 Request contained in your … letter of 22 March 2018 relating to paragraph 6 of the Particulars of Claim.
Our client now realises that paragraph 6 was factually incorrect. Whilst this error does not have any direct bearing on the remainder of the Particulars of Claim, our client intends to amend the Particulars of Claim to remove paragraph 6."
At that time, the parties were discussing having the meaning of the Article determined as a preliminary issue, so the Claimant's solicitors suggested that any amendments to the Particulars of Claim should await the resolution of that issue as the ruling might necessitate further amendments to the Particulars of Claim. The Claimant's solicitors did not disclose the WhatsApp messages or even make clear the circumstances in which the Clamant had come to join Unite Community. As was later to be recognised, the account given in Paragraph 5 of the Particulars of Claim was also not accurate.
vi) Perhaps understandably, the Defendants' solicitors were not satisfied with that response. On 25 April 2018, they wrote making a further Part 18 request:
"1. Please state how your client came to make this mistake, and when the mistake was identified.
2. Please particularise all persons that your client told about her membership application and/or the fact that she had joined the First Defendant, and the date on which she told each person, for the period up to 7 April 2017 [the date of publication of the Article].
vii) On 8 May 2018, the Claimant's solicitors responded, in a letter which the Claimant said in her evidence that she had seen and approved. In summary, the letter advanced an argument that the Defendants were not entitled to answers to their questions as they did not fall properly within the scope of Part 18:
"Neither of your two Requests satisfies the Part 18 test. Your clients know the case which they have to meet and will be able to advance whatever defences they wish when the time comes for filing and service of the Defence
Your request is a fishing expedition directed at (possibly) matters for evidence, rather than a request for information falling within the ambit of Part 18…"
viii) On the same day – 8 May 2018 – the Claimant's solicitors sent draft Amended Particulars of Claim to the Defendants. The accompanying letter said:
"Our client was unaware of any error in the current pleading until she read your request for further information of 22 March 2018. This prompted her to reflect further on the circumstances of her membership application. Our client had become gravely ill soon after publication of the article complained of in April 2017 and spent several months in hospital and recuperating. Our client believes that episode affected her recollection."
The accompanying draft pleading made the following material amendments (showing the conventional underlining and striking out):
4. In the course of her activities in her constituency, the Claimant learned about the community section of the First Defendant and various campaigns it was running which affected issues of local concern.
lateDecember 2016, the Claimant applied for community membership via the First Defendant's website searched for "join Unite Community", or used similar search terms, on Google and the results included a link to the relevant page of the First Defendant's website, namely www.unitetheunion.org.growing-our-union/communitymembership/at https:// www.unitetheunion.org/join-unite. She provided information about her residency in the jurisdiction, selected "Community membership" from the options listed and provided all the required information, namely her name, date of birth, gender, email address, address and bank details. For the avoidance of doubt, the membership application did not include any questions about the Claimant's employment status or similar matters.
6. The Claimant did not discuss her membership application or the fact that she had joined the First Defendant with any third party, other than her husband.
ix) The Amended Particulars of Claim were formally served on 27 July 2018, with these amendments and verified with a statement of truth. It is quite clear that a conscious decision had been taken on the Claimant's side not to reveal – and certainly not to disclose – The Birthday Club WhatsApp group messages that had led to the Claimant joining Unite Community. The amendments to the Particulars of Claim – and the explanation provided for them – were the bare minimum needed to bring the pleading into line with the true facts without revealing those facts to the Defendants. Whatever might be said about this conduct, it was quite deliberate. The Claimant was visibly discomforted when cross-examined about this refusal to reveal to the Defendants the existence of The Birthday Club WhatsApp Group messages. Repeatedly, whilst accepting that the amendments did not reveal the true position, she stated that she took the advice of her solicitors.
x) The Defence was served on 12 October 2018 and on 15 January 2019, the Claimant filed her Reply, which included the following statement:
"... The hyperlink to the relevant webpage for joining the First Defendant's Community section was provided to the Claimant by Ruth Smeeth MP"
xi) The Birthday Club WhatsApp messages were eventually provided to the Defendants by way of standard disclosure on 23 April 2019, albeit initially without giving the full names of the other members of the WhatsApp group. This disclosure was finally made 13 months after the messages had been discovered by the Claimant.
xii) Inevitably, the disclosure of the WhatsApp messages led to exchange of substantial correspondence. The Defendants attacked the Claimant's credibility in light of the disclosure and the Claimant's solicitors took the position – which they maintain even now – that the Claimant was not obliged to reveal the WhatsApp Group messages and the circumstances in which she joined Unite Community until standard disclosure.
xiii) On 9 May 2019, the Claimant's solicitors provided an explanation for the original error in the Particulars of Claim:
"In June 2017, our client was rushed to hospital where she remained for six months [details of procedures given]. When our client authorised us to sign the Statement of Truth in January 2018, she mistakenly believed that she had only told her husband about her Unite membership application because he was the only individual with whom she had discussed it. She had completely forgotten about the brief WhatsApp exchanges over a year before which had prompted her application. She was only prompted to remember those exchanges by the request made in your letter of 22 March 2018 and the subsequent search which she undertook. No doubt you will be able to question our client at trial about this matter if you wish to persist in claiming that she has been lying. That is a matter which would plainly sound in damages."
xiv) Witness statements were exchanged on 20 June 2019. In her statement, the Claimant stated that, when she had originally approved the Particulars of Claim, she had forgotten about the WhatsApp messages in The Birthday Club group. She said that, following the request for further information on 22 March 2018, she had "racked [her] brains" and:
"… searched my emails and phone records and, in doing so, came across the Birthday Club WhatsApp exchange… I realised that I had completely forgotten that was how I came to apply for membership…"
By way of further explanation for her mistake, she added:
"So much was discussed in multiple WhatsApp groups with hundreds of messages daily in dozens of groups that I barely registered all the comments. Moreover, 9 days after the article complained of was published, a General Election was called by Theresa May and after that I was completely immersed in election matters until Election Day on 8 June 2017. Soon afterwards, on about 21 June 2017, I was rushed to hospital where I remained for six months undertaking [details of procedures given]. It was after I came out of hospital that the Particulars of Claim were being drafted, and with all that happened, I made the mistake…"
xv) Whilst it was true that the Claimant had been seriously ill, it was not accurate to say that she had been in hospital for 6 months. As the Claimant confirmed in evidence, over that period of 6 months she had been in and out of hospital receiving treatment and has spent some 39 days in hospital during that time.
(3) The allegations of lying/dishonesty made against the Claimant
i) In order to conceal the true position – that she had joined Unite Community at the suggestion of Ruth Smeeth in a WhatsApp message in The Birthday Club – the Claimant made the following statements in §§4-6 of her Particulars of Claim that were known by her to be false and dishonest (RD §§33-34):
(1) that she had come to join Unite Community on her own initiative following a Google search; and
(2) that she had not discussed joining Unite Community with anyone other than her husband.
ii) The Claimant's statement that she had been in hospital for 6 months was untrue. It was advanced as a further dishonest statement designed to support her dishonest claim to have forgotten about The Birthday Club WhatsApp group discussion on 5 December 2016 (RD§§39-42).
"The Court may consider that Ms Turley's lawyers should have taken different steps. But that is not probative of any dishonesty on her part."
(5) Decision on Abuse of Process
i) I reject the Defendants' allegations that the Claimant has been dishonest. I accept the Claimant's evidence that she had forgotten the WhatsApp exchanges when she came to approve the original Particulars of Claim. The misstatement of the period the Claimant spent in hospital was an error. It was sloppy, and it should have been picked up, at least before the Claimant's witness statement was served, but it was not dishonest or intended to mislead.
ii) I accept that the Claimant discovered the WhatsApp messages on 22 March 2018 and practically immediately provided them to her solicitors. The belated disclosure of the WhatsApp messages does not demonstrate (or support) the charges of dishonesty. On the contrary, it undermines the suggestion that the Claimant was intent on dishonestly hiding the existence of these messages. From the moment that she disclosed the WhatsApp messages to her solicitors, the Claimant believed and fully recognised that they would ultimately be provided to the Defendants and to the Court.
iii) Disclosure of the messages was quite likely to be politically embarrassing – to the Claimant and possibly other members of The Birthday Club – and it is likely that this informed the decisions that were taken not to be candid about their discovery and to delay provision of the messages to the Defendants. Nevertheless, the failure to answer straightforward questions in correspondence (seeking refuge in a denial of entitlement under procedural rules) and the failure to disclose the true position regarding the Claimant's joining Unite Community until the WhatsApp messages were provided on standard disclosure were serious misjudgments. Litigation is not a game. The submission made on behalf of the Claimant that the Civil Procedure Rules did not require disclosure of the WhatsApp messages at any point before standard disclosure on 23 April 2019 overlooks the fact that the parsimonious amendments made to the Particulars of Claim in light of the discovery of the WhatsApp messages, without disclosing the documents themselves, were apt to mislead by omission. The consequences of these decisions were painfully exposed in the cross-examination of the Claimant, who simply could not provide an explanation for the lack of candour in responses sent on her behalf. Privilege not having been waived, I cannot reach a conclusion as to whether pursuit of this ill-judged strategy was the idea of the Claimant or her lawyers, but ultimately a party must take responsibility for the actions of his/her legal representatives. In this case, the Claimant is fortunate that I am satisfied that the evidence refutes the charges of dishonesty made against her.
 The general principles were reviewed and re-stated by the Court of Appeal in John -v- MGN Ltd  QB 586 … Sir Thomas Bingham MR summarised the key principles at pages 607—608 in the following words:
"The successful plaintiff in a defamation action is entitled to recover, as general compensatory damages, such sum as will compensate him for the wrong he has suffered. That sum must  compensate him for the damage to his reputation;  vindicate his good name; and  take account of the distress, hurt and humiliation which the defamatory publication has caused. In assessing the appropriate damages for injury to reputation the most important factor is [a] the gravity of the libel; the more closely it touches the plaintiff's personal integrity, professional reputation, honour, courage, loyalty and the core attributes of his personality, the more serious it is likely to be. [b] The extent of publication is also very relevant: a libel published to millions has a greater potential to cause damage than a libel published to a handful of people. [c] A successful plaintiff may properly look to an award of damages to vindicate his reputation: but the significance of this is much greater in a case where the defendant asserts the truth of the libel and refuses any retraction or apology than in a case where the defendant acknowledges the falsity of what was published and publicly expresses regret that the libellous publication took place. It is well established that [d] compensatory damages may and should compensate for additional injury caused to the plaintiff's feelings by the defendant's conduct of the action, as when he persists in an unfounded assertion that the publication was true, or refuses to apologise, or cross-examines the plaintiff in a wounding or insulting way. Although the plaintiff has been referred to as "he" all this of course applies to women just as much as men."
 I have added the numbering in this passage, which identifies the three distinct functions performed by an award of damages for libel. I have added the lettering also to identify, for ease of reference, the factors listed by Sir Thomas Bingham. Some additional points may be made which are relevant in this case:
(1) The initial measure of damages is the amount that would restore the claimant to the position he would have enjoyed had he not been defamed: Steel and Morris -v- United Kingdom (2004) 41 EHRR , .
(2) The existence and scale of any harm to reputation may be established by evidence or inferred. Often, the process is one of inference, but evidence that tends to show that as a matter of fact a person was shunned, avoided, or taunted will be relevant. So may evidence that a person was treated as well or better by others after the libel than before it.
(3) The impact of a libel on a person's reputation can be affected by:
a) Their role in society. The libel of Esther Rantzen [Rantzen -v- Mirror Group Newspapers (1986) Ltd  QB 670] was more damaging because she was a prominent child protection campaigner.
b) The extent to which the publisher(s) of the defamatory imputation are authoritative and credible. The person making the allegations may be someone apparently well-placed to know the facts, or they may appear to be an unreliable source.
c) The identities of the publishees. Publication of a libel to family, friends or work colleagues may be more harmful and hurtful than if it is circulated amongst strangers. On the other hand, those close to a claimant may have knowledge or viewpoints that make them less likely to believe what is alleged.
d) The propensity of defamatory statements to percolate through underground channels and contaminate hidden springs, a problem made worse by the internet and social networking sites, particularly for claimants in the public eye: C -v- MGN Ltd (reported with Cairns -v- Modi at  1 WLR 1051) .
(4) It is often said that damages may be aggravated if the defendant acts maliciously. The harm for which compensation would be due in that event is injury to feelings.
(5) A person who has been libelled is compensated only for injury to the reputation they actually had at the time of publication. If it is shown that the person already had a bad reputation in the relevant sector of their life, that will reduce the harm, and therefore moderate any damages. But it is not permissible to seek, in mitigation of damages, to prove specific acts of misconduct by the claimant, or rumours or reports to the effect that he has done the things alleged in the libel complained of: Scott -v- Sampson (1882) QBD 491, on which I will expand a little. Attempts to achieve this may aggravate damages, in line with factor (d) in Sir Thomas Bingham's list.
(6) Factors other than bad reputation that may moderate or mitigate damages, on some of which I will also elaborate below, include the following:
a) "Directly relevant background context" within the meaning of Burstein -v- Times Newspapers Ltd  1 WLR 579 and subsequent authorities. This may qualify the rules at (5) above.
b) Publications by others to the same effect as the libel complained of if (but only if) the claimants have sued over these in another defamation claim, or if it is necessary to consider them in order to isolate the damage caused by the publication complained of.
c) An offer of amends pursuant to the Defamation Act 1996.
d) A reasoned judgment, though the impact of this will vary according to the facts and nature of the case.
(7) In arriving at a figure it is proper to have regard to (a) Jury awards approved by the Court of Appeal: Rantzen, 694, John, 612; (b) the scale of damages awarded in personal injury actions: John, 615; (c) previous awards by a judge sitting without a jury: John, 608.
(8) Any award needs to be no more than is justified by the legitimate aim of protecting reputation, necessary in a democratic society in pursuit of that aim, and proportionate to that need: Rantzen ... This limit is nowadays statutory, via the Human Rights Act 1998."
i) Warby J's reminder in Barron -v- Vines  (which the Judge also cited in Barron -v- Collins  EWHC 162 (QB) ) that:
"… special caution is required when it comes to deciding what is justified and proportionate by way of compensation for libels such as those in issue here, which are published by one politician about another on a topic of public interest. Politicians may in general have thicker skins than the average. Whether or not that is so in the individual case, they are expected to tolerate more than would be expected of others."
ii) A defendant is entitled to rely in mitigation of damages on any other evidence which is properly before the court, including evidence that went to a (failed) plea of truth: Pamplin -v- Express Newspapers  1 WLR 118, 120 per Neill LJ.
 Libel damages are intended to compensate the victim rather than punish the perpetrator. Where the court wishes to take account of aggravation on the defendant's part in arriving at the appropriate sum, as in Cairns -v- Modi , it is compensating the claimant for additional hurt to his feelings, or in the context of vindication, injury to his reputation, brought about by the defendant's conduct over and above that caused by the publication itself. As Lord Reid explained in Broome -v- Cassell & Co Ltd  AC 1027, 1085-1086:
"Frequently in cases before Rookes -v- Barnard, when damages were increased in that way but were still within the limit of what could properly be regarded as compensation to the plaintiff, it was said that punitive, vindictive or exemplary damages were being awarded. As a mere matter of language that was true enough. The defendant was being punished or an example was being made of him by making him pay more than he would have had to pay if his conduct had not been outrageous. But the damages though called punitive were still truly compensatory: the plaintiff was not being given more than his due."
 Mr Caldecott drew attention to how much the conduct of the trial on Mr Modi's behalf will have impacted, not only on Mr Cairns's feelings, but also on the need for vindication. In essence he submitted that by the time the trial had concluded the coverage given to the trial throughout the world hugely increased the need for vindication. It would thus be wholly artificial to proceed on the basis that Mr Cairns's reputation only needed to be restored among a limited number of readers. The serious allegations put in cross-examination and in the closing speech, on Mr Modi's behalf, make it necessary for him to be able to point, now and in the future, to an award of damages which carries conviction following such an onslaught. As Lord Hailsham explained in Broome -v- Cassell, at p.1071B–C:
"Such actions involve a money award which may put the plaintiff in a purely financial sense in a much stronger position than he was before the wrong. Not merely can he recover the estimated sum of his past and future losses, but, in case the libel, driven underground, emerges from its lurking place at some future date, he must be able to point to a sum awarded by a jury sufficient to convince a bystander of the baselessness of the charge."
 Mr Tomlinson, by contrast, suggested that there is a reduced need for an element of vindication in the award once a reasoned judgment has been promulgated at the conclusion of a trial. In effect, the judgment in favour of Mr Cairns contained its own vindication. In this context we understood him to be arguing for a principle that damages should always be less, following a trial by a judge alone, than after the verdict of the jury, on the basis that the judge will provide a reasoned judgment explaining his conclusions which will, if the result is favourable to the claimant, vindicate him. We are disinclined to accept any such general principle. (See, for example, Associated Newspapers Ltd -v- Dingle  AC 371, 400–401, 407, 408–409, 419, and the discussion in Purnell -v- Business F1 Magazine Ltd  1 WLR 1, -, .)
 It is hardly necessary to expand on the reasons given by their Lordships in the Dingle case, but it is perhaps worthy of note that most lay observers or "bystanders" would be unlikely to read a detailed judgment and would be rather more interested to find out what sum the court, whether judge or jury, had awarded the claimant. Given the wholesale attack on Mr Cairns's reputation in the course of the trial, as reproduced in the media around the world, it is safe to assume that such a person would only be convinced by an award of some magnitude. Without adding to the judicial observations on this topic, we reject the submission that the present award should be reduced merely because Bean J's judgment contained express elements of vindication of Mr Cairns's reputation.
 In any event it cannot be right in principle for a defendant to embark on a wholesale attack on the character of a claimant in a libel action heard by a judge without having to face the consequences of the actual and potential damage done to the victim both in the forensic process and as a result of further publicity. There will be occasions when the judgment will provide sufficient vindication, but whether it does so is always a fact-specific question. The judge will be well placed to assess whether the terms of the judgment do indeed provide sufficient vindication in the overall context of the case. In the present case, we think it unlikely that cricket fans will have downloaded the judgment of Bean J and read it with close attention. It is more likely, as in so many cases, that the general public (or rather, interested "bystanders" who need to be convinced) will be concerned to discover what might be called the "headline" result. What most people want to know, and that includes those who read the judgment closely, as Mr Caldecott submitted, is simply "how much did he get?"
 The judge awarded £15,000 to take account of the conduct of the trial by the previous counsel instructed by Mr Modi. This represented an increase of 20% on the judge's starting figure of £75,000. This element of the award could have been addressed in the judgment as being as one of the factors taken into account in arriving at a global sum, but in the present case, because of the particular impact of the way in which the trial was conducted, presumably on the basis of Mr Modi's instructions, the judge decided to make specific and individual reference to this feature of the case. He was entitled to do so. Even allowing for the elements of vindication in the public judgment, this feature of the award was entirely proportionate.
i) Cairns -v- Modi  EWHC 756 (QB) (upheld on appeal): £75,000 general damages plus £15,000 aggravated damages in respect of tweet where the extent of original publication was agreed to be 65, with an estimated 1,000 readers of a republication. The imputation was a Chase level 1 meaning of corruption (match fixing) in the tweet and Chase 2 for the republication. The compensatory award took account of the likelihood of such a publication 'going viral'. The aggravated damages were in respect of one matter, namely the conduct of the trial ("The words "liar", "lie" and "lies" were used in all 24 times"  per Bean J).
ii) Fentiman -v- Marsh  EWHC 2099 (QB): £45,000 general damages and an additional £10,000 in aggravated damages in respect of three posts containing allegations of computer hacking or strong grounds to suspect such conduct in the third post, published to approximately 100, 230 and 188 persons respectively on blogs. The separate aggravated damages award took account of several matters including that the publications were made against a background of earlier proceedings and the Defence asserted that the claimant was a liar.
iii) Flood -v- Times Newspapers Limited  EWHC 4075 (QB): An allegation of grounds to suspect corruption, abuse of position and criminality by a police officer, in respect of estimated 549 hits on website (after the date when the defendant no longer had a Reynolds defence). Nicola Davies J awarded general damages of £45,000 and a further £15,000 in aggravation because of the conduct of the proceedings and failures after the claimant was exonerated.
i) Monir -v- Wood: an online allegation of involvement in child sex abuse which was described as "life changing" and having transformed the life of the claimant and his family and left him a recluse . Notwithstanding the "fairly limited publication" (although republishing took it into four figures) and an identification issue, there was "evidence of serious and significant reputational harm"  flowing from the publication coming to the attention of people in the local area including "even his next-door neighbour". Had the libel been published in a national newspaper, £250,000 or more would have been easily justified, but the award had to be discounted to make it proportionate to the limited online publication. The award made was £40,000 .
ii) Burgon -v- News Group Newspapers Ltd  EWHC 195 (QB): £30,000 was awarded to an MP for an online article, published on a national newspaper website by a very prominent political correspondent, the Sun's political editor, that meant that he "joined a band which as he knew took great pleasure in using Nazi symbols". The imputation that he was prepared to associate himself with pleasure in Nazi symbols is again substantially more serious for an MP.
iii) Suttle -v- Walker  EWHC 396 (QB): a joint award of £40,000 was made for defamation and harassment in a case where the harassment alone justified an award at the upper end of the Vento scale , being a campaign in which the claimant was "clearly and deliberately targeted" to create a "foreseeable response" which was "vicious and frightening" and "calculated to (and did) whip up hatred for the Claimant and put her in fear for her safety". The "real … reputational harm" was adequately compensated within that award . Mr Hudson submitted that this was far from the present case, in which there is no real evidence of actual harm to the Claimant's reputation, and the evidence – such as her re-election on an increased share of the vote – is, if anything, to the contrary.
"For anyone these allegations would have been upsetting but as a Member of Parliament the Article's allegation is particularly serious and has the potential to cause a significant amount of damage to my reputation and my career. While I am quite robust, as you have to be as an MP, such an attack on my integrity was distressing… The members of my local branch were no doubt a key target audience and it is clear to me that this article was published as an attempt to have me de-selected as, had there not been a snap General Election, it is likely that my selection process would have been taking place in the near future. This was part of a wider attempt to destabilise and undermine MPs who had not supported Jeremy Corbyn by turning members against them… The Article made me feel bullied and undermined. They were trying to create a picture of me that was just not true. I was helpless and felt that if I attempted to respond by media statements I would have likely just fuelled the allegations and mad more people aware of them. It just felt as if The Skwawkbox blog had decided it could publish whatever it liked and no-one would be able to do anything about it. I feel angered and insulted and it adds to my sense of outrage that Skwawkbox could say whatever it liked on its blog with no sense of accountability. It is extremely frustrating that even after Mr Walker has seen all the documents in these proceedings, he has not amended or apologised for the Article and it remains on his website today… It has now been two years since the publication of the Article and the Article still remains on the internet and I had had no correction and no apology. For two years the article with the very serious allegations against me has been out there and it has not been withdrawn or corrected, it feels that some members of the public will believe the allegations are true…"
The Claimant was not challenged on any of this evidence when cross-examined at the trial. Although the Claimant was generally resilient when she was cross-examined, there were occasions when she was distressed.
"Anna was incredibly upset and angry when The Skwawkbox article was published. She was clearly devastated about it. Anna was constantly worried about the article and had sleepless nights about it. She talked about the article constantly with me after its publication. It was like a body blow for her and she felt bullied by being targeted in the article. Anna was very worried that people were going to believe Skwawkbox's lies. She became increasingly concerned about this as she got closer to the General Election. She was worried that people who read the article would believe it as it was still on The Skwawkbox website.
Anna was completely wiped out, down and devastated… Without a doubt, the stress caused by the article contributed to Anna's anxiety and her distressed state at the time … Anna has been stressed about The Skwawkbox article ever since its publication. This is a source of constant anxiety for her and she talks about it to me frequently…"
(3) Submissions on damages
i) Whilst the Defendants accepted that the Chase level 2 meaning was seriously defamatory, the allegation is far from the gravest end of the scale; e.g. Monir -v- Wood. The Court must not lose sight of the fact that the imputation is at Chase level 2. A "basic" level 2 meaning should result in a very substantially lower award than the one that would be appropriate for a level 1 meaning.
ii) The Skwawkbox was a left-wing blog which, at least at the time of publication, had a very limited traction, as demonstrated by the fact that the Article was read only 3,672 in the first year of publication (most of which were prior to receipt of the Claimant's letter of claim). That figure is half the 7,000 persons who had read the story in Burgon .
iii) In Barron -v- Collins, as well as broadcast live on BBC Parliament channel, and tweeted to over 20,000 followers of prominent political journalists and websites, the libel was published on a PA wire service report which would have led to wide circulation to journalists and those involved in public policy: -. In Barron v Vines, the libel was published on a Sky News lunchtime broadcast to conservatively tens of thousands up to at most hundreds of thousands watching at that moment: -.
iv) The Second Defendant promptly offered a 1,000 word "right of reply" the day after the Claimant's the letter of claim which he offered to publish "as is".
v) The Claimant had accepted that she had acted "sloppily" in relation to the false statements in her statements of case for the litigation.
vi) The Claimant accepted in oral evidence that her own attack on Mr McCluskey had been derogatory, abusive, improper, and unacceptable. The Article was written in the context that it was raising concerns about someone who had shown herself to be both a vehement public opponent of Unite's General Secretary and someone prepared to use derogatory and abusive language about him in a Tweet for which she said she would be "disingenuous" to apologise. The Claimant's prior abusive comments aimed at a defendant are in principle relevant: Trumm -v- Norman  EWHC 116 (QB).
vii) Any damages awarded will be in the context of a reasoned judgment rejecting the truth defence.
viii) The pursuit of the abuse of process argument should not aggravate the damages. Warby J did not treat it as an aggravating factor in Barron -v- Vines .
i) In opening, the Defendants asserted that the Claimant was "unfit to be an MP" (see  above). That statement was made at a time when she was standing for election. It was not relevant to any matter in issue and was "pulled out of the hat, presumably to attract the attention of the media who could report it under the protection of privilege (which they did)".
ii) Despite the truth defence advanced by the Defendants in support of a Chase level 2 meaning that there were reasonable grounds to suspect the Claimant of dishonesty, the Defendants, in opening, contended that they were going to seek to "climb the mountain" and that the Defendants' evidence would prove that the Claimant was actually dishonest, principally in support of their abuse of process argument.
iii) The Defendants made allegations of dishonesty against the Claimant in her conduct of the litigation. Those allegations are of the utmost seriousness but relate to matters which the Defendants must have appreciated could also have been explicable as mistakes.
iv) While the allegation that the Claimant had lied about not receiving post from the First Defendant was withdrawn during trial (see  above), no apology was offered.
(4) Decision on damages
(B) Other remedies
i) an injunction to restrain further publication of the Article or similar statements defamatory of the Claimant; and
ii) an order pursuant to s.12 Defamation Act 2013 requiring the Defendants to publish a summary of the judgment.
(1) Where a court gives judgment for the claimant in an action for defamation the court may order the defendant to publish a summary of the judgment.
(2) The wording of any summary and the time, manner, form and place of its publication are to be for the parties to agree.
(3) If the parties cannot agree on the wording, the wording is to be settled by the court.
(4) If the parties cannot agree on the time, manner, form or place of publication, the court may give such directions as to those matters as it considers reasonable and practicable in the circumstances.
(5) This section does not apply where the court gives judgment for the claimant under section 8(3) of the Defamation Act 1996 (summary disposal of claims).
[paragraph numbers added; emphasis in the text is original]
EXCLUSIVE: PROGRESS MP 'JOINS UNITE'S UNWAGED SECTION' FOR GENSEC VOTE
 As regular readers of this blog will know, the contest for the position of General Secretary of Unite is underway at the moment and the campaign of challenger Gerard Coyne has been criticised for its smear-tactics and a breach of the Data Protection Act (DPA) that Coyne admitted on national radio but claimed 'was agreed' – which showed a poor understanding of the law, as only 'data subjects' can agree to data they provided to one organisation being used by someone else.
 Coyne also claimed that use of the data had 'concluded', but this was also untrue, as further emails and texts were sent to non-Unite members this week.
 It appears that these are not the limits of the lengths Labour's right-wing faction will go to in their efforts to lever in a candidate that they hope can undermine Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
 The SKWAWKBOX has learned that substantial numbers of right-wingers joined Unite's 'Community' section (UC) before the January deadline to be entitled to vote in the leadership ballot. Unite Community membership costs only 50p a week, as it is exclusively for the unwaged.
 However, many of those who joined UC to vote for Gerard Coyne are not unwaged – and therefore made a false declaration in order to do so.
 Not only that, but one of them – the visible tip of the iceberg, so to speak – is according to sources, a prominent Progress MP with a track record of contempt for Unite's incumbent General Secretary Len McCluskey.
 In July last year, Anna Turley – a spokesperson for Progress, an extreme anti-Corbyn faction at the heart of much of the agitation against him – perhaps frustrated by Len McCluskey's continued, steadfast support for the Labour leader, urged a Twitter contact to join Unite in what has become an infamous Tweet:
 It's safe to say she's extremely invested in McCluskey's removal. Enough, if reports are correct, to join in order to vote against him – as she appears to have done.
 However, she has been reported to the regional office for the way in which she did so.
 Joining Unite costs around £12 a month and it appears that Ms Turley was keen to do so as economically as possible and save £10 a month by joining UC instead of as a full union member – which means she would have had to declare herself unwaged.
 The SKWAWKBOX understands that an official complaint has been sent to Unite's Regional Secretary for the north-east, Karen Reay.
 Ms Turley's office was contacted this afternoon to see whether it wished to comment on the matter but has, so far, declined to make any comment. Ms Turley is also a full member of the separate union Community, but this is coincidental and is not at issue here.
 The McCluskey campaign was also contacted but did not wish to comment on what it said was a matter for the union.
 A Unite spokesperson today confirmed that there exists no exemption for an MP to join UC and issued the following statement:
"Unite welcomes new members but anyone joining on a fraudulent basis will prompt an investigation. A complaint has been received and is being investigated."
 If the complaint is upheld and Ms Turley has, in plain words or by omission, declared herself unwaged in order to join a low-cost section of the union, it speaks volumes for the desperation of the Labour right to remove Len McCluskey as a route to toppling Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – and of the principles they are prepared to forsake in order to achieve that end.
 Joining Unite in order to participate in the General Secretary ballot is legitimate and some are known to have done so to support McCluskey. However, making a false declaration in order to do so 'on the cheap' is certainly not legitimate and such applications need to be routed out and their votes invalidated.
 The SKWAWKBOX urges Unite to investigate all applications for Unite Community membership and to not only expel but also expose those who have done so fraudulently, as this is a matter of huge interest to the union's 1.4 million members, over 500,000 Labour Party members and the public at large.
[A photograph of the Claimant appeared between paragraphs  and  together with the caption "Labour/Co-op MP and Progress spokesperson Anna Turley"]
[The Article contained various hyperlinks to external materials, but no party has suggested that these have any relevance to the issues I have to determine.]
At the relevant time, the Rules provided as follows:
RULE 3. MEMBERSHIP
3.1 The Executive Council shall define the categories of membership. Where the Union organises or represents persons engaged in an occupation or seeks to do so, any person engaged in that occupation shall be eligible for membership of the Union, subject to these rules.
3.2 There shall be other categories of membership as may from time to time be determined by the Executive Council. These categories shall include:
? Retired Members Plus
? Community/Associate Community/Student Member
? Back to Work Member
? Apprentice/Trainee Member
The Executive Council shall determine the qualifications for membership of these categories as well as the level of contribution and entitlement to benefit. Membership of Retired Members Plus and Community/Student Membership shall not accord an entitlement to vote in any ballot or election held by the Union other than:
I. An election to the office of General Secretary under Rule 15 and 16…
3.4 Any eligible person may apply for membership by completing the appropriate application form agreeing to be bound by the rules of the Union and submitting t to the Union office or by electronic means s may be provided for via the Union's website. An applicant shall become a member when his/her application has been approved and he/she has been entered into the register of members…
3.6 Each member must notify the Union's membership department of any subsequent change of workplace or contribution category status…
RULE 5. OBLIGATIONS OF MEMBERS
5.1 A member of the Union must comply with these rules and with any duty or obligation imposed on that member by or pursuant to these rules whether in his/her capacity as a member, a holder of a lay office or as a full time officer…
RULE 7. INDUSTRIAL/OCCUPATIONAL/PROFESSIONAL SECTORS
7.1 Members in employment shall be allocated to the Industrial Sector in which they are employed. The term 'Industrial Sector' is a generic term including occupational and professional sectors.
RULE 15. GENERAL SECRETARY
15.1 All elections for the General Secretary shall be on the basis of a ballot of the whole membership of the Union other than 'ordinary' retired members who shall not be eligible to vote. The fixed term of office for each General Secretary election will be set at 5 years. If the General Secretary position becomes vacant due to retirement, resignation or death within a fixed term of office a General Secretary election will be called.
RULE 27. MEMBERSHIP DISCIPLINE
27.1 A member may be charged with:
27.1.1 Acting in any way contrary to the rules or any duty or obligation imposed on that member by or pursuant to these rules whether in his/her capacity as a member, a holder of lay office or a representative of the Union…
27.1.3 Knowingly, recklessly or in bad faith providing the Union with false or misleading information relating to a member or any other aspect of the Union's activities…
27.1.6 Obtaining membership of the Union by false statement material to their admission into the Union or any evasion in that regard…
RULE 28. COMMUNITY/STUDENT MEMBERS
28.1 Unite Community Membership shall be open to all not in paid employment as well as those not seeking employment. The sections aims (sic) are to organise, campaign, protest and mobilise, both independently as well as alongside our industrial, young and retired members, in order to progress matters of interest and/or concern to our community and wider industrial membership, provided that such activities are not inconsistent with the general policy and objectives of the Union…
Abuse of process by making dishonest statements and misleading the Court
Particulars of dishonesty and misleading the court
[The Claimant] did not know when she made her application that the Community membership was reserved for the unwaged. She chose the Community membership because she was aware of some of their work in her local constituency.
4. In the course of her activities in her constituency, the Claimant learned about the community section of the First Defendant and various campaigns it was running which affected issues of local concern.
5. In late December 2016, the Claimant applied for community membership via the First Defendant's website searched for "join Unite Community", or used similar search terms, on Google and the results included a link to the relevant page of the First Defendant's website, namely http://www.unitetheunion.org.growing-our-union/communitymembership/.
6. The Claimant did not discuss her membership application or the fact that she had joined the First Defendant with any third party, other than her husband.
The discussions in the Birthday Club which led to the Claimant's application
a. The Claimant claims that she identified the true position by "rack[ing] her brains" and checking her mobile phone records following a Part 18 request by the Defendants dated 22 March 2018 asking her to state, inter alia, for how long she denied discussing her application to the 1st Defendant with anyone except her husband. Yet she failed to take prompt steps to volunteer the true position.
b. The Claimant made no admission and gave no warning that her statements were untrue or misleading until after the Defendants stated on 20 April 2018 that they would raise her failure to respond to a Part 18 request at an imminent interim hearing. She then disclosed for the first time on 23 April 2018 that she "now realises that paragraph 6 was factually incorrect" yet assured the Defendants, misleadingly, that "this error does not have any direct bearing on the remainder of the Particulars of Claim".
c. Following a further Part 18 request on 25 April 2018 asking her to identify how she came to make the mistake and to particularise who she told about her application, the Claimant stated on 8 May 2018 that the original Part 18 Request "prompted her to reflect further on the circumstances of her membership application [and that she] had become gravely ill soon after publication of the article complained of in April 2017 and spent several months in hospital and recuperating [and she] believes that episode affected her recollection." She served a draft Amended Particulars of Claim from which she deleted paragraph 6, which she had admitted was "factually incorrect" and deleted (without explanation or acknowledgment in her accompanying letter) the following passage from paragraph 5: "The Claimant searched for 'join Unite Community', or used similar search terms, on Google and the results included a link to the relevant page of the First Defendant's website, namely http//unitetheunion.org/growing-our-union/communitymembership". She served another letter on the same date stating that she would not reply to the Part 18 response, contending that it was premature.
d. The Claimant served Amended Particulars of Claim on 27 July 2018 following determination of the preliminary issues, in which she made no material amendments other than those identified in her draft of 8 May 2018.
e. In her Reply served on 16 January 2019, she stated (misleadingly and without further explanation) that "The hyperlink to the relevant webpage for joining the First Defendant's Community section was provided to the Claimant by Ruth Smeeth MP" when it was actually published to the Claimant amongst 49 other MPs so that they could make a covert effort to join the 1st Defendant by applying to its Community section.
f. The true circumstances in which she chose to join the Community section prompted by discussions in the Birthday Club emerged for the first time from the Claimant's disclosure on 23 April 2019, precisely one year after she notified the Defendants on 23 April 2018 that her pleading was "factually incorrect" and over two years after she had falsely claimed to have "chose[n] the Community membership because she was aware of some of their work in her local constituency". The scale of her disclosure to MPs remained undisclosed.
g. On 7 May 2018 the Claimant disclosed that her discussions about her reasons for joining the 1st Defendant and choosing to do so covertly through the Community section were published to a total of 50 other (then) Labour MPs
h. She ultimately identified all the Labour and (now) former Labour MPs who were party to the discussions which prompted her to join the Community section (together with supplying further disclosure about the nature of the Birthday Club) on 16 May 2019, after the Defendants stated they would otherwise refer the matter to the Court.
Dishonest and untrue statement in the Claimant's witness statement
9 days after the article complained of was published, a General Election was called by Theresa May and after that I was completely immersed in election matters until Election Day on 8 June 2017. Soon afterwards, on about 21 June 2017, I was rushed to hospital where I remained for six months. It was after I came out of hospital that the Particulars of Claim were being drafted, and with all that happened, I made the mistake.