Arron Banks: Prominent Brexiteer says judge 'felt sorry' for journalist Carole Cadwalladr who is cleared of libelling him

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Businessman and prominent Brexiteer Arron Banks has claimed a High Court judge "felt sorry" for the journalist Carole Cadwalladr, who has been cleared of libelling him.

Mr Banks added that he is likely to appeal.

Ms Cadwalladr, who writes for The Observer, spoke during a 2019 TED Talk about alleged "lies" Mr Banks told "about his covert relationship with the Russian government".

She later tweeted a link to the talk, which can still be viewed online.

Mr Banks argued that the remarks were "false and defamatory" and sought damages. He also wanted an injunction against the comments' continued publication.

But Mrs Justice Steyn concluded that Ms Cadwalladr, who has investigated the funding of the EU referendum campaigns and alleged misuse of data, held a "reasonable belief" that her comments were in the public interest.

"The judge felt sorry for Carole is how I would sum it up," Mr Banks tweeted.

"Defamatory but no serious harm. I suppose falsely accusing someone of taking Russian money for Brexit doesn't cut the ice."

Speaking following the judgment, Ms Cadwalladr said she was "profoundly grateful and relieved".

In her ruling, the judge said: "Based on her investigation, Ms Cadwalladr had reasonable grounds to believe that Mr Banks had been offered 'sweetheart' deals by the Russian government in the period running up to the EU referendum."

Mrs Justice Steyn admitted, however, that the journalist "had seen no evidence (Mr Banks) had entered into any such deals".

But "Mr Banks's financial affairs, and the source of his ability to make the biggest political donations in UK history, were opaque", the judge added.

"In addition, when she gave the TED Talk, the matter had been referred to the NCA (National Crime Agency) and that organisation was investigating."

The judge said that while Ms Cadwalladr had not asked Mr Banks for a response before giving the TED Talk, she had previously given him right of reply in articles she had written about mostly the same subject.

Ms Cadwalladr had also apologised to Mr Banks, saying she accepted it was untrue to say he had told "untruths about a secret relationship he had with the Russian government" about accepting foreign money to fund an electoral campaign in breach of the law.

The NCA later concluded there was no evidence of any offences.

"I am so profoundly grateful and relieved," Ms Cadwalladr tweeted after the verdict had been set out.

"Thank you to the judge, my stellar legal team and the 29,000 people who contributed to my legal defence fund."

She added: "The fact that his case was brought clearly shows how our libel laws favour the rich and powerful.

"This judgment is a huge victory for public interest journalism."

Mr Banks congratulated Ms Cadwalladr on her win, but added that it "leaves open for the journalist the excuse that she thought what she said was correct even though she had no facts".

He went on: "There are important points of law at stake here and we will likely appeal."

Keith Mathieson, from law firm RPC, which represented Ms Cadwalladr, said the judgment "gives significant support to the public interest defence in the law of defamation and the protection it offers journalists, bloggers and others to contribute to public debate on serious issues".

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