Rachel Riley: Countdown star’s libel case against Laura Murray explained - and how much did she win?

The judge overseeing the case described it as ‘unusual’, and found that Laura Murray’s tweet about Rachel Riley ‘caused serious harm to her reputation’

Rachel Riley sued Laura Murray for libel over a tweet made regarding former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn getting hit with an egg (Photo: PA)

Countdown host Rachel Riley has been awarded £10,000 in damages as a result of the libel lawsuit filed against a former Jeremy Corbyn aide following an exchange on Twitter.

The court case revolved around tweets made in reference to the incident where Corbyn was hit with an egg.

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What was the libel case?

Riley filed the lawsuit against Laura Murray over a tweet which was posted over two years ago.

Both women posted tweets after former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was hit with an egg whilst visiting a mosque in March 2019.

On Twitter, Riley posted a screenshot of a January 2019 tweet by Owen Jones, a Guardian columnist, regarding the incident wherein former British National Party leader Nick Griffin was hit with an egg.

Jones’ tweet said: “Oh: I think an egg was thrown at him actually. I think sound life advice is, if you don’t want eggs thrown at you, don’t be a Nazi.”

Riley added the comment “good advice” with emojis of a red rose and an egg.

Rachel Riley arriving at the Royal Courts of Justice in London (Photo: PA)

Murray replied directly to Riley’s tweet, stating: “You are publicly encouraging violent attacks against a man who is already a target for death threats.

“Please think for a second about what a dangerous and unhealthy role you are now choosing to play in public life.”

Later, Murray tweeted again: “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.”

However this tweet, which would be known as “the Defendant’s Tweet”, did not reply to, quote tweet or include a screenshot of Riley’s good advice tweet.

In the case documents, it states that this fact “is going to be a point of some significance”.

It says: “In her evidence at trial, the Defendant stated that the reason she had not

quote-Tweeted or otherwise included the Good Advice Tweet was that she did not want

to “drive additional traffic” to the Good Advice Tweet.

“Whatever the motivation, in practical terms, it meant that the Good Advice Tweet was not immediately available to anyone reading the Defendant’s Tweet. Unless the reader manually searched through the Claimant’s Tweets, s/he would be entirely dependent upon the Defendant’s description of the Good Advice Tweet to understand what the Claimant had said.”

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

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

What did the judge say in the ruling?

Mr Justice Nicklin oversaw the High Court case in London, and ruled that Murray’s tweet was in fact defamatory.

He concluded that the tweet meant Riley had “publicly stated” 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”.

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

In a written ruling issued on Monday (20 December), the judge said: “This case is unusual.

“It turns, largely, on two tweets: the good advice tweet and the defendant’s tweet.

“I have found that the publication of the defendant’s tweet has caused serious harm to the claimant’s reputation, and I have rejected the defendant’s defences.”

He added: “The claimant is therefore entitled to a sum in damages.”

Laura Murray, a former aide to Jeremy Corbyn, arriving at the Royal Courts of Justice in London (Photo: PA)

According to the judge, Murray’s tweet had “essentially” misrepresented what Riley had said her in post. He did however reject Riley’s argument that Murray had been “motivated by any improper purpose”.

He said: “I am satisfied that the defendant acted honestly.

“She made a mistake in the defendant’s tweet by not including the good advice tweet.”

Mr Justice Nicklin said that the posting of the “good advice tweet” could not be described as “bad conduct” by Riley, but added that it “properly” fell to be “characterised as provocative, even mischievous”.

He said: “There is a clear element of provocation in the good advice tweet, in the sense that the claimant must have readily appreciated that the meaning of the good advice tweet was ambiguous and could be read as suggesting, at least, that Jeremy Corbyn deserved to be egged because of his political views.

“The claimant can hardly be surprised - and she can hardly complain - that the good advice tweet provoked the reaction it did, including the defendant’s tweet.”

The judge said those were “matters which are properly taken into account” when deciding on the “appropriate” damages.

What has Rachel Riley said about the ruling?

Following the ruling of the case, Riley tweeted that she was “extremely pleased” to have won the libel case against Muray.

In a thread of tweets, she wrote: “I’m extremely pleased to have won my libel case vs Laura Murray, former head of complaints for the Labour Party.

“This has been a very draining process and I’m relieved to finally have vindication.

“Huge thanks to @MLewisLawyer, a superhero whose help has been unquantifiable.

“It never needed to come to this, but I’m grateful to have had an outlet to set the record straight. This is the culmination of several tough years for many Jewish people and allies. I hope this serves as a reminder you can’t defame people without consequences, even on Twitter.

“Thank you for all the support I’ve received over this and much more besides, it really does mean a lot.

“I now hope to draw a line under this difficult period, and focus my time and energy on my family, and on much nicer things.”

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