Corbyn granted permission to appeal over defamation ruling against him

The High Court had found that the former Labour leader had made statements about pro-Israel activist Richard Millett that could be held to be defamatory


Jeremy Corbyn has been granted permission to appeal against a ruling made by a High Court judge that statements he made could be held to be defamatory of the pro-Israel activist Richard Millett.

The JC has learned that lawyers for the ex-Labour leader had sought permission to appeal on three grounds in relation to Mr Justice Saini’s judgment, which was handed down in July.

It is understood that Mr Corbyn has been granted permission to appeal  against the Preliminary Hearing Judgment on two out of the three grounds. The case is now set to be heard next spring.

The libel case relates to an appearance made by Mr Corbyn on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show in September 2018, in which he was asked about the then notorious “English irony” speech he had made in 2013.

Mr Marr had asked Mr Corbyn about a 2013 speech the former Labour leader had made at a meeting convened by the Palestinian Return Centre.

During that speech Mr Corbyn had commented on an event in Parliament days earlier, where the guest speaker was the Palestinian ambassador to the UK, Manuel Hassassian.

At the PRC event Mr Corbyn complained that some present at the meeting in Parliament were “thankfully silent Zionists” who had behaved in a “very, very abusive manner” towards Mr Hassassian.

He added that not only did they “not understand history”, but that “they did not understand English irony, either”, despite having lived in Britain for a long time.

On the Andrew Marr Show, the BBC presenter suggested Mr Corbyn’s comments about Zionists had been “a strange thing to say.”   Neither the 2013 speech nor the interview with Mr Marr  named Mr Millett.

Mr Corbyn told the presenter: "Well, I was at a meeting in the House of Commons and the two people I referred to had been incredibly disruptive, indeed the police wanted to throw them out of the meeting. I didn't.

“I said they should remain in the meeting. They had been disruptive at a number of meetings.

“At the later meeting when Manuel spoke they were quiet, but they came up and were really, really strong on him afterwards and he was quite upset by it.

“I know Manuel Hassassian quite well.  And I was speaking in his defence. Manuel of course is the Palestinian Ambassador of this country.”

Mr Marr then asked Mr Corbyn: “Do you now accept what you said was antisemitic?”

The ex-Labour leader replied: “Well, it was not intended to be antisemitic in any way and I have no intention and have absolute opposition in every way to antisemitism though I can see where it leads to. I can see where it leads to now in Poland, in Hungary, in Central Europe, I can see where it led to in the past. We have to oppose racism in any form and I do…"

Mr Millett alleged that the words spoken by Mr  Corbyn in the programme were defamatory of him and their publication caused and was likely to cause serious harm to his reputation.

In his nine-part judgment delivered on July 10, the judge said: “I find that the words complained of referred to Mr Millett; that they bore a meaning defamatory of Mr Millett as identified above; and I find that the allegations were factual”.

He said it was reasonable to conclude that Mr Corbyn’s comments referred to Mr Millett, even though he was not identified by name.

The court found that Mr Millett was being accused of abusive behaviour in relation to a public speaker on a controversial topic.

Further, it was found that the behaviour of which he was accused was so serious that it could have prompted the police to eject Mr Millett and the other individual.

The court also said that there was the potential for both a personal defamation regarding Mr Millett’s character and a professional form of defamation in relation to his work attending and reporting on meetings of that type.

After the judgment was handed down, Mr Millett’s lawyer, Mark Lewis, said: “The judge rejected the argument that Jeremy Corbyn was not referring to Richard Millett when he defended his ‘irony statement’ on the Andrew Marr programme. The case can now proceed to trial.”

The JC has contacted Mr Corbyn’s legal firm Howe and Co for comment over the decision to grant permission to appeal over the judgment in the preliminary stage of the libel case.

Mr Millet’s lawyer Mark Lewis said he could not comment.


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