Awkward Countdown conundrum leaves Rachel Riley smirking
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Rachel Riley, 36, has been awarded £50,000 in damages after winning a libel claim against Mike Sivier over an article claiming the Countdown star was a “serial abuser”. The Channel 4 star sued the political blogger after he published an article in January 2019.
The individual published an article on his website Vox Political in January 2019 with the headline: “Serial abuser Rachel Riley to receive ‘extra protection – on grounds that she is receiving abuse.”
The blogger had originally defended the libel claim on the grounds of truth and honest opinion as well as public interest.
His article discussed tweets as part of an online debate on antisemitism in the Labour party, including ones written by the Countdown star herself, during an exchange with a 16-year-old called Rose, with the messages dated between December 2018 and January 2019.
A judge had previously found that Sivier’s article would be read as claiming Rachel “engaged upon, supported and encouraged a campaign of online abuse and harassment of a 16-year-old girl”, allegations vehemently denied by the Countdown star.
Sivier defended the libel claim arguing he had “reasonable belief” it was in the public interest to publish the accusations in the article.
In a judgement delivered today, Mrs Justice Steyn ruled in favour of Rachel, granting her £50,000 in damages as well as an injunction requiring Sivier to remove the article and never repeat the accusations.
During the trial in July, Rachel said the amount of abuse she received online increased significantly from January 2019, saying it was “horrendous”.
In January 2021, Mrs Justice Collins Rice struck out all three of Mr Sivier’s defences, finding that they had “no prospect” of succeeding.
However, Mr Sivier won a challenge at the Court of Appeal four months later, finding that his public interest defence should be assessed at a trial.
This did not work out in the blogger’s favour, with Rachel taking the victory this morning.
The judge said: “He had no reasonable grounds for making the factual allegations that he did, which misrepresented the evidential picture, and the article was wholly unbalanced.
“The way in which Ms Riley corrected Rose’s mistaken belief that she is not Jewish, and responded to the accusation that she was engaging in a smear campaign and should be ashamed of herself, was gentle, civil and measured.
“The content and tone of Ms Riley’s first thread were in sharp contrast to the insulting messages some other Twitter users had sent Rose, and manifestly provided no encouragement to anyone to abuse, bully or harass her.”
“There has been no retraction, amendment or apology to mitigate the damage to the claimant’s reputation or to provide any element of vindication. The award of damages, together with this judgment, will have to provide that.”
This notes that Rachel was never given a right to reply to the original defamatory article.
Speaking at the trial earlier this, Rachel admitted the “floodgates opened to abuse after the article was published,” as she told the court: “I changed my Twitter settings after that week because it was so horrendous.
“It was a whole load of abuse that I was receiving, that Channel 4 was receiving.”
Lawyers of Sivier tried to counteract this claim saying the TV host had not suffered serious harm from the article and was already known as being “highly controversial and offensive”.
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