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« David Davis campaign insists their man will run | Main | David Cameron denies using cocaine since becoming an MP »

Comments

Mark Fulford

Michael, it's not that I don't believe you, it's that you haven’t backed-up what you say. You made very damning allegations of CChange, and the burden of proof is clearly yours. I’ve pushed you on this and, so far, the most substance you’ve provided is that Gillian Shepherd objected to the phrase “blue-rinse brigade”. I’m not defending that language, but it doesn’t live up to “racist, sexist and homophobic vermin”!

Michael McGowan

Neither of Malcolm nor Mark were at the meeting so they have no idea whether I am exaggerating or not. This isn't a court so I don't have to meet any burden of proof. I made a comment which I believe to be a fair and accurate recollection of a rather unpleasant inaugural CChange meeting which I went to with high hopes but found very offputting. It was one of the reasons why I have stopped supporting the Conservative Party. Gillian Shepherd undoubtedly shared some of my concerns. And no, I am not going to stoke up this discussion or be accused of libelling individuals by naming names or giving details of the nastier and more lurid comments made. This isn't a trial. But it is important to point that the ranks of the "modernisers" contain a number of people who can be fairly described as "illiberal liberals". Which is hardly surprising because political correctness is an illiberal creed.

Mark Fulford

If what you are saying is true, I can't see how you could possibly be accused of libel. It would require a bunch of politicos to conspire to commit perjury – but we can be certain that Gillian Shepherd wouldn’t let such a thing happen.

kris

ED, please can we have an article on who won the two prediction competitions? I was close the first time and got it totally wrong the second. Who were the closest ones and who actually got the coveted prize?

Michael McGowan

Of course I could be accused of libel if I named names. As any libel lawyer will tell you, the burden of proof is reversed under our medieval libel laws and the defendant has to prove that he is telling the truth.

Mark Fulford

Which is my point: if you are going to say such damaging things about a group of people, you have to be able to back it up with more than 'trust me, I was there'.

Dave J

Hmmmm...tangential point, as I obviously don't have remotely the knowledge to get involved in the substantive arguments going in these particular comments, but has any minister, MP, or other person in a position to do so ever seriously proposed revising the UK's defamation laws? I.e., making falsehood an essential element of the torts of libel or slander rather than truth an affirmative defense, and thus putting the burden of proof where it should be, on the plaintiff? Or would that be too threatening to lawyers who want to preserve the UK's (and specifically England's) dubious status as the world's leading forum of choice for defamation suits?

Mark Fulford

The burden of proof is necessarily on whoever made the defamatory comment. Imagine if it were the other way around – a newspaper prints that Y is a paedophile. Y sues the newspaper for defamation but, under your arguments, has to prove that he’s not a paedophile - a clear reversal of presumed innocent.

Dave J

The presumption of innocence is a criminal concept, Mark. We're talking a civil suit for defamation, not a criminal prosecution for child molestation or whatever other charge might arise from pedophilia (and, of course, being a pedophile is not a crime: acting on it is). I'm used to the burden of proof in such cases being different than in the UK, as I'm an American attorney (and one with a longstanding interest in comparative law). The First Amendment fundametally alters the contours of defamation law here, at least post-New York Times v. Sullivan. In the US, in cases involving public officials, public figures or issues of public importance, a plaintiff must indeed show that the allegedly defamatory statements are false, and must further demonstrate "actual malice," i.e., that the defendant published them either knowing that they were false, or with reckless indifference as to their truth or falsehood. This is part of why the UK is, as I said above, the world's choice of forum for such suits, because they're much easier to win than they are here.

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