FAR-LEFT journalist-turned-activist Carole Cadwalladr has been forced to hand over £35,000 to Brexit-backer Arron Banks, after being proven to have lied in an attempt to dupe the public.
The disgraced columnist, who frequently uses her Twitter account to attack pro-Brexit figures and spread libel, has so far ‘grifted’ over half-a-million pounds from her gullible followers – most of whom are unaware that her fundraising efforts were carried out via a defunct company, and are therefore illegal.
Banks, a prominent donor for the Leave.EU campaign, had appealed the High Court judgment that found Observer writer Cadwalladr could rely on the public interest defence after she libeled him in a Ted Talk about Facebook’s role in Brexit in April 2019.
She had said: “And I’m not even going to go into the lies that Arron Banks has told about his covert relationship with the Russian government.”
Last year, a High Court judge ruled that although the comment was defamatory and caused Banks serious harm, Cadwalladr could rely on the public interest defence in the Defamation Act 2013 up until 29 April 2020, when the Electoral Commission made a statement that it accepted the National Crime Agency’s finding that Banks had not committed any criminal offence.
With Banks winning his appeal, Cadwalladr was ordered to pay £35,000 in damages – a sum that Banks has now confirmed she has handed over to him.
The order, published on Friday 28 April, requires Cadwalladr to pay the sum by 12 May. The court will now also assess costs.
Three Court of Appeal judges ruled that he was caused serious harm by the Ted Talk’s continuing publication after 29 April 2020 and that Banks is therefore entitled to damages, to be assessed at a later date.
Lord Justice Warby, with whom Lord Justice Singh and Dame Victoria Sharp agreed, said: “The Ted Talk conveyed a serious allegation, involving dishonesty and breach of electoral law, which was inherently likely to cause serious reputational harm.”
They agreed with Banks that Mrs Justice Steyn’s assessment of the serious harm was wrong in law. Lord Justice Warby found there was “no legally admissible evidential basis for the judge’s inference that the Ted Talk and tweet did not cause serious harm because most of those to whom they were published already believed in the truth of the allegation which they contained”.
Lord Justice Warby described Mrs Justice Steyn’s reasoning regarding Cadwalladr’s “echo chamber” as “unsound”, adding: “There was nothing else to act as a counterweight to the natural inference that publication [after 29 April 2020] had caused serious harm to the reputation of the claimant. The precise measure of that harm remains to be assessed but it is not possible to conclude that it was not ‘serious’.”
He also said it was “an inevitable inference from the evidence before the judge that publication of the Ted Talk after 29 April 2020 caused serious harm to the reputation of [Banks]. There was little direct evidence of harm, but as the judge held this was ‘unsurprising’ given the well-known difficulties of obtaining such evidence.”
The courts heard that the Ted Talk has been viewed more than one million times, with Mrs Justice Steyn estimating a tenth of that – 100,000 views – came after 29 April 2020. Lord Justice Warby noted this meant the section of the audience after the public interest defence ended was “broadly equivalent to the circulation of a broadsheet national daily newspaper” and that this was a “weighty consideration”.
Despite since bizarrely doubling down on some of her false claims and pretending that was winning the lawsuits (perhaps in an attempt to continue grifting cash from her small anti-Brexit fanbase), Cadwalladr reluctantly issued at least two tweets confirming she had lied about Banks:”
“I tweeted Arron had been found to have broken the law. I regret making this false statement” – Carole Cadwalladr, 2020
“[I said] you told untruths about a secret relationship you had with the Russian gov’t. This allegation was untrue” – Carole Cadwalldr, 2021.
However, despite Cadwalldr’s reputation now in tatters, she is unlikely to be hit financially, with her crowdfunder still accepting donations.
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