Rachel Riley awarded £10,000 damages after suing former Corbyn aide over tweet

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  • Rachel Riley
    Rachel Riley
    English television presenter
  • Jeremy Corbyn
    Jeremy Corbyn
    Former Leader of the British Labour Party, MP for Islington North

Television presenter Rachel Riley has been awarded £10,000 in damages by a High Court judge after suing a former aide to Jeremy Corbyn for libel.

Ms Riley, 35, a numbers expert on the Channel 4 show Countdown, sued Laura Murray, who is in her early 30s, over a tweet posted more than two years ago.

Mr Justice Nicklin oversaw the High Court case in London in May and delivered a ruling on Monday.

The judge said Ms Riley was “entitled” to “vindication”.

He had heard that both women posted tweets after Mr Corbyn, who was then Labour leader, was hit with an egg while visiting a mosque in March 2019.

Laura Murray arrives at the Royal Courts of Justice
Laura Murray arrives at the Royal Courts of Justice (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Ms Murray tweeted in response to a tweet by the television presenter.

Ms Riley initially posted a screenshot of a January 2019 tweet by Guardian columnist Owen Jones about an attack on former British National Party leader Nick Griffin, which said: “I think sound life advice is, if you don’t want eggs thrown at you, don’t be a Nazi.”

She added “Good advice”, with emojis of a red rose and an egg.

Later, Ms Murray tweeted: “Today Jeremy Corbyn went to his local mosque for Visit My Mosque Day, and was attacked by a Brexiteer. Rachel Riley tweets that Corbyn deserves to be violently attacked because he is a Nazi. This woman is as dangerous as she is stupid. Nobody should engage with her. Ever.”

Ms Riley said she was being sarcastic in her tweet, did not call Mr Corbyn a Nazi, and told the judge that Ms Murray’s tweet caused serious harm to her reputation.

Ms Murray was stakeholder manager in Mr Corbyn’s office when he was Labour leader, and went on to be the party’s head of complaints, before going into teaching.

She argued that what she tweeted was true and reflected her honestly held opinions.

Mr Justice Nicklin ruled at an earlier hearing that Ms Murray’s tweet was defamatory.

Riley libel ruling
Rachel Riley with Countdown co-stars Anne Robinson and Susie Dent (Rachel Joseph/Channel 4/PA)

He concluded that the tweet meant Ms Riley had “publicly stated” Mr Corbyn had been attacked when visiting a mosque; that he “deserved to be violently attacked”; by doing so she had shown herself to be a “dangerous and stupid person” who “risked inciting unlawful violence”; and that people should not “engage with her”.

The judge was asked to consider whether serious harm had been caused to Ms Riley’s reputation, and whether Ms Murray had a defence of truth, honest opinion, or public interest.

Ms Riley, who studied mathematics at Oxford University and is on maternity leave from Countdown after giving birth in November, told the judge she is Jewish and has a “hatred of antisemitism”.

She said she speaks out against antisemitism and thought the Corbyn-led Labour Party was “fostering antisemitism”.

Ms Murray told the judge that her job had involved her working with the Jewish community to “try to find solutions to the problem of antisemitism which was becoming evident within parts of the Labour Party membership”.

Mr Justice Nicklin concluded that Ms Riley had demonstrated that Ms Murray’s tweet had caused serious harm to her reputation.

He found that both women had been truthful in the evidence they gave and had done their best to “assist the court”.

Mr Justice Nicklin said there was an “element of provocation” in Ms Riley’s “good advice” tweet.

“Although posting the good advice tweet could not be described as ‘bad conduct’ of the claimant, it properly falls to be characterised as provocative, even mischievous,” he said in a written ruling.

“It was calculated to provoke a reaction and it did.”

The judge rejected Ms Murray’s argument that rejection of her defences would be an unjustifiable interference with her right to freedom of expression.

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