Rachel Riley scores key victory in libel battle

Countdown star Rachel Riley scores key victory in libel battle against hard-left blogger who blamed her for death threats sent to girl, 16, on Twitter as judge strikes out his defence

  • Mike Sivier’s defence thrown out by judge in ongoing Rachel Riley libel case 
  • He had claimed Ms Riley ‘cold shouldered’ teenager and caused death threats 
  • Mr Sivier has now pledged to challenged the decision in the Court of Appeal 

 Countdown star Rachel Riley today secured a key victory in her libel battle against a hard-left blogger who accused her of being responsible for death threats sent to a teenager on Twitter

Countdown star Rachel Riley today secured a key victory in her libel battle against a hard-left blogger who accused her of being responsible for death threats sent to a teenager on Twitter.

Pro-Labour journalist Mike Sivier claimed in a blog post that Ms Riley had ‘cold shouldered’ a vulnerable 16-year-old, alleging that the girl had subsequently received death threats. 

Mr Sivier’s post came in response to a Guardian article which reported that Ms Riley, 35, needed extra protection after being abused online in relation to anti-Semitism. 

He was sued for libel by Ms Riley following publication of allegations that an earlier court hearing found had meant she ‘engaged upon, supported and encouraged a campaign of online abuse and harassment’ against the teenager.

Mr Sivier later filed a defence which advanced truth, honest opinion and publication on a matter of public interest in relation to the comments.  

But in a judgement published today, Mrs Justice Collins Rice struck out Mr Sivier’s defence in a key victory for Ms Riley amid her two-year legal bid.  

The judgement states Ms Riley’s conversation with the teenager on Twitter can only be described as ‘a straightforward, rational and respectful exchange of views’.

Mrs Justice Collins Rice adds that ‘Ms Riley’s engagement was prompted, received with interest and thanks, and responded to constructively,’ stating Mr Sivier’s ‘pleaded objections are not sustainable as a factual description of Ms Riley’s speech on its face, as opposed to opinionated commentary.’ 

‘I cannot see on any basis that this conversation is capable of demonstrating the truth of the strong allegations in Mr Sivier’s article,’ Mrs Justice Collins Rice said. 

Pro-Labour journalist Mike Sivier (pictured) claimed in a blog post that Ms Riley had ‘cold shouldered’ a vulnerable 16-year-old, alleging that the girl had subsequently received death threats

Ms Riley, who has been a vocal critic of anti-Semitism in the Labour party, shared the news of the judgement on Twitter today, describing the ‘large amount of abuse’ she received after speaking in the media about the issue

Mr Sivier, who has crowdfunded more than £100,000 to pay his legal fees, today pledged to challenge the decision in the Court of Appeal.

Writing on his blog, he said: ‘Rachel Riley’s libel case against me has taken another twist after a High Court judge decided to strike out all of my defence.

‘I now have to take the case to the Court of Appeal, which will cost a considerable amount of money.

‘This is a bitter blow. But it is not a defeat. My legal team and I have good reason to believe that the decision can be overturned.’

Ms Riley, who has been a vocal critic of anti-Semitism in the Labour party, shared the news of the judgement on Twitter today, describing the ‘large amount of abuse’ she received after speaking in the media about the issue.

She said: ‘Two years ago this month, I first spoke formally in the media about the problems within the Labour Party regarding anti-Jewish racism.

‘From the moment the announcement of my forthcoming interview was made public, it felt like a tap had been turned on, and the large volume of abuse I was receiving seemed to increase exponentially.

Mr Sivier, who has crowdfunded more than £100,000 to pay his legal fees, today pledged to challenge the decision in the Court of Appeal

The judgement, published today, concludes: ‘Ms Riley’s application to strike out Mr Sivier’s defence succeeds’

‘Failing to intimidate me into silence, trolls turned their attention to discrediting my arguments by smearing my character.’

The Countdown host explained how she became the victim of a ‘derogatory and untrue smear, which gained a life of its own in left-wing circles, falsely accusing me of having bullied a teenage girl with mental health problems. This is untrue.’  

She added: ‘Today, a judgement has come out, finally dealing with the merits of these horrendous allegations.

‘These accusations were fantasy, and as such have been dismissed without a trial, because not only were they baseless but the evidence showed the opposite.

‘I am hugely grateful to Mrs Justice Collins Rice for her thorough judgement, now in the public domain, which states that my interactions with the teenage girl were a “straightforward, rational and respectful exchange of views in which Ms Riley’s engagement was prompted, received with interest and thanks, and responded to constructively”. 

‘It is very sad and frustrating that I was forced to resort to legal action to have this myth dispelled.’

The judgement acknowledges that the ‘harassment narrative’ did not emerge from anything Ms Riley said or did, adding that it was ‘self-evident’ that her ‘principal goal was with antisemitism in general.’   

Ms Riley added: ‘On entering this arena of political debate, I had seen good people smeared with the most heinous of claims, simply for opposing anti-Jewish racism.

‘I had hoped that having been known to the public for a decade, I would be immune to such cheap attempts, but sadly I now know how lies with no basis in truth can spread online amongst those for whom it’s politically expedient to have them believed.

‘Sivier now has a chance to put forward legal arguments, if he so wishes, where he would have to show that his untrue and defamatory claims against me did not cause serious harm (a legal threshold) and were not published to more than a few people (they were widely broadcast).

‘I am advised that such arguments would be hopeless.

‘I hope this case serves to remind whoever needs reminding, that you cannot … defame people without consequence, and even if some seem to forget this rule when on social media, libel law does not.

‘I will take action against those who forget this rule.’ 

The judgement, published today, concludes: ‘Ms Riley’s application to strike out Mr Sivier’s defence succeeds’.

However, Mr Sivier has pledged to challenge the decision in the Court of Appeal.

He said: ‘Rachel Riley’s fans are going to be very happy for a while but it isn’t over yet. Anyone who cares for justice is urged to support the appeal.’

Mr Sivier is currently fundraising to pay the legal costs of his appeal.  

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