Letter: UKIP councillor’s view on the decision to cover the cost of potential defamation case

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This is a letter I have written to Bevan Brittan, the law firm acting for Rutland County Council.

“I reject any suggestion that your client has a cause of action in the tort of defamation. Your client will therefore be well advised to immediately withdraw its instructions to you. Should your client continue its ill-conceived pursuit of me in any form, it will be an abuse of its power. Should your client instigate proceedings, I shall, at the appropriate time, apply to strike out on the basis that your client has no reasonable grounds for bringing the claim and/or it is an abuse of the process.

“In addition, should your client continue to pursue the matter, I will consider this to be harassment and will take appropriate action.

“I understand that your client has to date, expended approximately £42,000 in the matter. I consider that this is a misuse of public funds. Public funds have been used for payment for what I consider to be a private civil action.

“Notwithstanding that your client has no cause of action, is abusing its powers, is acting ultra vires and is misusing public funds, I briefly comment on the contents of your letter dated July 1, 2013, in relation to the alleged defamatory remarks.

You have stated that your client has instructed you on behalf of “the senior officers of the council including the council’s chief executive, Mrs Helen Briggs.”

“You are requested to disclose all of the senior officers’ names that your client purports to act on its behalf. You are also requested to disclose your instructions. Failure to disclose either one of these requests will result in me making an application under the Freedom of Information Act and/or under Part 31.16 of the Civil Procedure Rules.

“It is quite improper for your client, which will not be a party in any defamation proceedings, to withhold the names of individuals that are the complainants.

“Ignoring the fact that the remarks quoted are incapable of being reconciled against any person, proper or otherwise, you have failed to:

A Identify the actual words complained of;

B Identify the precise factual inaccuracies or unsupportable comment within the words complained of insofar that each claimant gives a sufficient explanation to enable me to appreciate why the words are inaccurate or unsupportable;

C Detail all the facts and/or matters which make each claimant identifiable from the words complained of

D Provide details of any special facts relevant to the interpretation of the words complained of and/or any particular damage caused by the words complained of.

Should any individual complainant proceed with the matter of defamation and issue a letter of claim, it will be mandatory for each claimant to provide the information as set out above and detailed at paragraphs 3.2 and 3.3 of the Pre-Action Protocol. Indeed, to be successful a claimant must prove on balance:

A That the publication carries a defamatory meaning;

B That the publication does refer to the claimant

C that the defendant is responsible for the publication.

In order to bring a claim for defamation therefore, each claimant must prove that I published a defamatory statement to a third party which refers to the particular claimant, of which the statement made other people think worse of the particular claimant.

From case law, there is no doubt that the council officers that your client purports to act on behalf of, will be unable to adduce the requisite level of evidence to show that the alleged defamatory statement actually referred to the particular claimant.

The statement as quoted in your letter is not defamatory, nor does it identify any person or class of person, and thus it is impossible for any individual of the council to have been defamed in a way that would lower him or her in the estimation of right-thinking members of society at large. The combined statement is nothing but public criticism of Rutland County Council, made in the context of an honest comment.

It is clear to me that your letter is fundamentally deficient in substance and cause. Your letter is no more than an attempt to restrain my freedom of speech which is contrary to section 12, of the Human Rights Act 1998 and the European Convention on Human Rights.”

RICHARD GALE

Rutland county councillor (UKIP)