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First Brit Prosecuted Over Twitter Libel

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the tweet-nice dept.

Social Networks 116

Tasha26 writes "A former town Mayor, Colin Elsbury, made legal history by being the first Brit to pay damages for libel on Twitter. His tweet on polling day said 'It's not in our nature to deride our opponents however Eddie Talbot had to be removed by the Police from a polling station' [and was held to amount] to pure election slur. The Twitter libel was settled at Cardiff High Court with total bill hitting £53,000 (£3,000 compensation + £50,000 legal fees). The fine works out at more than £2,400 per word. After Courtney Love's recent £260k settlement in a Twibel case, this case reaffirms that anything posted in the public domain is subject to libel laws."

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Twibel? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35472856)

Twibel? Seriously, you're coining a portmanteau out of one shared letter (i)? Fuck off.

Re:Twibel? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35472864)

Its just a 2 year old trying to say drivel.

Re:Twibel? (4, Funny)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#35472884)

Didn't Star Trek do a couple episodes about the Twibel problem?

Re:Twibel? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35473172)

Kirk was in those episodes so it was Twi........bel.

Re:Twibel? (2)

BitterOak (537666) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474004)

Didn't Star Trek do a couple episodes about the Twibel problem?

Yes. The Twouble With Twibels.

Re:Twibel? (1)

nmb3000 (741169) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474558)

Didn't Star Trek do a couple episodes about the Twibel problem?

Yes. The Twouble With Twibels.

I would think that Twials and Twilbelations [memory-alpha.org] is more appropriate given the nature of this story :)

Re:Twibel? (1)

snspdaarf (1314399) | more than 3 years ago | (#35478348)

I remember that one. Elmer Fudd played the medical orderly.

Re:Twibel? (2)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 3 years ago | (#35473138)

<raises gun to point at your forehead>

SAY 'TWIBEL' AGAIN!
I DARE YOU!
I DOUBLE DARE YOU!
SAY 'TWIBEL' ONE MORE GODDAMN TIME!

stupid lameness filter, of course I'm yelling! that's the whole point!

Eddie Talbot! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35472888)

It could be worse. He could have said, "Eddie Talbot is a pedophile," or, "Eddie Talbot is unfaithful with his dog." Or even, "Eddie Talbot is a litigious bastard who stomps kittens." Sentences such as these might cause offence, but an off-the-cuff remark about a scuffle with the police is surely not as bad as - using a hypothetical example - Eddie Talbot being accused of sleeping with a 14 year old?

Re:Eddie Talbot! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35473054)

The claim that he'd been removed from a polling station by the police is much worse because it has a ring of plausibility to it. It's fairly specific and doesn't sound like a random insult from an idiot.

Re:Eddie Talbot! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35473204)

You're awfully ad hominem for someone who hasn't denied raping and murdering a girl in 1990.

Re:Eddie Talbot! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35473652)

You're awfully ad hominem for someone who hasn't denied raping and murdering a girl in 1990.

Huh? I did deny it and still do. It's the one in 1987 that I tend to go all '5th amendment' over, on the advice of my lawyers.

Re:Eddie Talbot! (1)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 3 years ago | (#35473092)

Well, that depends on who is doing the saying.

for instance, I am pretty sure not only from the wording, but the fact that you posted AC that the accusations you made are illustrative of what you see as a problem and not a direct accusation of the person names being any one or part of those things.

However, had you been claiming to be, and identified as such, Eddie Talbot's closest friend and ally, or perhaps someone with something to gain over making those statements, they could be much more believable as being real. This is part of the problem with libel. It's not just what was said, but the context of what was said and by whom. On election day, saying that someone was arrested at a polling booth implies more then just that. It implies there was a reason why and you should get out and vote against them.

What would be nice is if the truth would be an affirmative defense to libel. But people can craft statements that are technically accurate, but not representative of the truth. For instance, I could probably say you had sex with a 14 or 16 year old and it would be true. I'm assuming you might have had a sexual encounter in high school. But if you are 48 years old when I make that statement without reference to it happening when you were 14 or 16 too, the reality of the situation becomes all distorted and way more negative then the complete truth would imply.

Re:Eddie Talbot! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35473830)

But people can craft statements that are technically accurate, but not representative of the truth.

I keep trying to explain to people the difference between lies and deceit, but it's an uphill struggle.

Re:Eddie Talbot! (1)

isorox (205688) | more than 3 years ago | (#35473266)

hypothetical example - Eddie Talbot being accused of sleeping with a 14 year old?

What, is he a Prince or something?

Re:Eddie Talbot! (1)

WillKemp (1338605) | more than 3 years ago | (#35475154)

The amount of compensation awarded in a civil matter are generally decided according to how much damage was done to the person making the complaint. If he'd been accused of sleeping with a 14 year old, the amount of compensation would probably have been higher.

Re:Eddie Talbot! (1)

WorBlux (1751716) | more than 3 years ago | (#35476286)

"Eddie Talbot is a litigious bastard." That much at least we now know to be true.

Re:Eddie Talbot! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35477394)

Really? You know his parents were not married when he was born?

Re:Eddie Talbot! (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 3 years ago | (#35477524)

I hope you have some savings after making a post like that

Re: twibel? (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35472896)

exactly what I came here to say. Can we stop having special words for actions that already exist but are occurring on twitter.

@gofuckyourself

Re: twibel? (4, Funny)

brusk (135896) | more than 3 years ago | (#35473666)

I'm afraid your proposal won't gain any twaction.

Re: twibel? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35473918)

Twat.

Re: twibel? (1)

Kilrah_il (1692978) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474132)

Don't say 'actions', say 'twi-ction'.

You were sayin'?

Re: twibel? (1)

Patch86 (1465427) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474332)

This is essentially the same as those patents that go "[anything] on a computer" or "[anything] over the internet".

Libel (or it's close relative slander) is what you're doing if you say something untrue and damaging about another person in a way that will cause them negative effects. It doesn't matter if its in a newspaper, or on the radio, on Twitter or in fucking sky writing- libel is libel.

It certainly doesn't need a new word for every branded product its possible to libel with.

For all that's wrong with Britain's libel.... (3, Insightful)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 3 years ago | (#35472900)

For all that's wrong with Britain's libel system, this actually sounds like it'd pass muster in America as well, and a good thing for it, too.

Re:For all that's wrong with Britain's libel.... (5, Informative)

pushing-robot (1037830) | more than 3 years ago | (#35472964)

Yeah, I'm not seeing the problem here. I mean, what was the alternative?

"You lied about someone in an attempt to smear their reputation? Yep, that's libel all right.
Oh, but you did it on Twitter? Ah, that's totally different! No harm done then!"

Re:For all that's wrong with Britain's libel.... (1)

Shikaku (1129753) | more than 3 years ago | (#35473090)

%s/Twitter/the Internet/g

Re:For all that's wrong with Britain's libel.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35478744)

Oh, then he should be able to patent the process.

Re:For all that's wrong with Britain's libel.... (1)

TimSSG (1068536) | more than 3 years ago | (#35473230)

The way the article is written implies someone with the same name was removed by the police; in the USA, I am not sure it would be Libel. It might be it might not.

Tim S.

Re:For all that's wrong with Britain's libel.... (2)

julesh (229690) | more than 3 years ago | (#35473976)

The way the article is written implies someone with the same name was removed by the police; in the USA, I am not sure it would be Libel. It might be it might not.

Interestingly, this was actually less likely to be considered libel in the UK than in the USA. The UK defamation law recognises a defense against libel, "unintentional defamation", which is allowed in cases of genuine mistake about the information disclosed (mistaken identity is the most commonly cited situation it is used in). This defence doesn't have a direct US counterpart. However, this defence requires the defendant to show that he took reasonable steps to avoid mistakes, which is probably where this case fell down (I guess without having read it).

See, e.g. Sandford, Libel and Privacy, vol 2 page 10 onwards [google.co.uk] . IANAL, but I know how to do a faiurly convincing impersonation of one.

Re:For all that's wrong with Britain's libel.... (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474932)

The twitter post identified the person removed by the police as a political opponent so the only mistake was made by the poster, not the reader of the post.

Re:For all that's wrong with Britain's libel.... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#35473314)

The only problem that I see with this case is that it cost 50 thousand pounds: While there is no particular evidence that the verdict was a miscarriage of justice(3k for politically-motivated smear on election day seems fairly lenient), the cost of the case is worrisome.

At roughly current exchange rates($1.61 per pound) the court costs were just over $80,000. Our spook buddies at the CIA world factbook put the estimated 2010 GDP per capita in the UK at a hair over $35,000.

So, at least going by this case, the court costs were ~2.3 years of per capita GDP for a resident of the country in which the case took place. At those prices, anybody who doesn't have a 100% ironclad case or a substantially above-average income had better stay the hell away from loser-pays cases, no matter how small the damages themselves. And, if there are situations where loser doesn't pay, even people with 100% ironclad cases will have to stay the hell away unless the expected damages are quite high indeed, enough to attract a lawyer on contingency.

That is my concern: as long as the costs of touching a court are this high, you almost necessarily(no matter how good your laws and just your judges and juries) end up in a situation where the civil justice system is basically unavailable to anybody who isn't somewhere between "wealthy" and "plutocratic".

This is true. Is it also true in the USA? (1)

fantomas (94850) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474570)

IANAL. But I believe if a court case happens and you lose you pay costs. Does this also happen in the USA? How much do your lawyers cost? About the same for a court case, more, less?

We actually have a system called Legal Aid which supports people on lower incomes, allows them reduced price / free legal support but the present government in all its wisdom is cutting this down to be virtually non existent. Allegedly. (covers me against being sued, right? :-) )

Re:This is true. Is it also true in the USA? (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 3 years ago | (#35475684)

Does this also happen in the USA?

No. Which is why rich persons or corporations have been known to force people to settle out of court because they know they couldn't afford a protracted legal battle even if they won the case.

Re:This is true. Is it also true in the USA? (1)

the_womble (580291) | more than 3 years ago | (#35476958)

Legal aid does not cover libel. The income level at which it cuts off is quite low as well.

Given how much an open and shut libel case like this cost, its obvious that funding the typical libel case is well beyond the reach of most people.

Re:For all that's wrong with Britain's libel.... (0)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#35473654)

What's the alternative? You could decide to not believe hearsay. That is the only proper, civil response. But it's much easier to kill the messenger, as always.

Re:For all that's wrong with Britain's libel.... (2)

Rakishi (759894) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474398)

So if your local newspaper (or popular website like say yahoo news) printed a giant first page story saying " is a pedophile" you'd be perfectly fine with that?

Re:For all that's wrong with Britain's libel.... (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 3 years ago | (#35475730)

So if your local newspaper (or popular website like say yahoo news) printed a giant first page story saying " is a pedophile" you'd be perfectly fine with that?

I wouldn't but, if you think about it, even local civil courts are an extension of the federal government (indirectly) and one could construe that when a court finds someone guilty of libel, they are in fact restricting someone freedom of speech (even if it is lies).

I mean take this phrase for example:

"The president is an idiot!"

Which you and I know is covered under the first amendment even though its not really quantifiable true (I think he's quit a smart man actually but anways...)

Whats the difference between that and:

"My neighbor is an idiot"

Why would that be wrong to publish in a newspaper and not the president one? This is more of an ethics debate I guess, but you can call someone a pedophile and believe it to be true even though there is no empirical truth to the matter. I mean people said, Micheal Jackson was a pedo, and it actually seemed socially acceptable to say this in public even though there was no truth to the mater.

Where do you draw the line? And do you want government involved especially when there is groups out there that would love to sue the pants off anyone who dare criticize them? (say Scientology libel and slander cases)

Re:For all that's wrong with Britain's libel.... (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#35475850)

My feelings aren't important. The freedom to speak outweighs all of this bullshit. You simply refuse to understand what the hell I'm saying.

Re:For all that's wrong with Britain's libel.... (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 3 years ago | (#35473344)

It's hard to say since they won't have explored the possability that a reasonable person might have believed the tweet to be true based on a genuine mis-identification.

In the U.S. the plaintiff would have to show that.

Re:For all that's wrong with Britain's libel.... (4, Informative)

Wrath0fb0b (302444) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474044)

For all that's wrong with Britain's libel system, this actually sounds like it'd pass muster in America as well, and a good thing for it, too.

With regards to a private citizen, it might pass muster. With regards to a candidate for electoral office and other public officials, however, the 1A requires a much higher standard. See, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_Times_Co._v._Sullivan [wikipedia.org] for more details.

Broadly speaking, the standard for talking about a public figure is not merely malice but actual malice which means either actual knowledge of falsity or reckless disregard for the truth. In practice, that's a nearly impossible burden for a libel plaintiff.

The logic that a different standard applies to public officials and candidates for office is also pretty obvious -- they have voluntarily decided to submit themselves for public judgment and they ought to understand that they are open to criticism in that regard. The KS Supreme Court wrote it best

It is of the utmost consequence that the people should discuss the character and qualifications of candidates for their suffrages. The importance to the state and to society of such discussions is so vast, and the advantages derived are so great, that they more than counterbalance the inconvenience of private persons whose conduct may be involved, and occasional injury to the reputations of individuals must yield to the public welfare, although at times such injury may be great. The public benefit from publicity is so great, and the chance of injury to private character so small, that such discussion must be privileged.

Re:For all that's wrong with Britain's libel.... (1)

Kilrah_il (1692978) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474156)

+5 Informative for the post.
+5 Insightful for the court opinion.

when will the unbearable holycost ever end (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35472902)

deepends on whose 'math' we use? it's been going on for centuries. the way they're doing it now? could be days/weeks/years/'till we have less than nothing, or a big winner is declared? dark, dead, mathematically incorrect, so it goes. it's all experimental when confronting the genetically & surgically altered corepirate nazi mutants/minions, aka47; "the walking dead", the eugenatics, weapons peddlers etc...? who else would do such life0cidal things? god? allah? yahweh? buddha? not likely.

maybe improved intentions/regards for one another, nearby AND far away would help to start? all this media generated hate/fear mongering isn't what we were designed for. we're (all of us) just here to tend after the bips/each other. babys rule. they outnumber us (bigger people) overwhelmingly, as it should be. that's a fact.

so it's if, not when? can't we vote on it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35473374)

surely? butt first, there are 'requirements'; we need a 'declared' war on an identifiable country/enemy/something to allow us to vote about it. right back to if. get the ?math? it's plagiarism from the last crop of life0ciders. if we knew that, that'd be stuff that matters, as we hate plagiarisms too, although there's really nothing 'new'

mynutswon; banished? (so yesterday?) if we stop making weapons, we'll starve?

What he tweeted... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35472918)

...is, of course, very different than if he had wondered in his tweet whether Glenn Beck had raped and murdered a young girl in 1990.

Re:What he tweeted... (2)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#35473102)

You know, he's never denied being a pedophile, rapist murderer. I'll leave that up to the reader to consider.

Re:What he tweeted... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35473320)

I see that posted a lot - mostly on Digg - I'm ashamed to say I read ....

BUT, the truth is even weirder [salon.com] ...

Re:What he tweeted... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35473540)

BUT, the truth is even weirder...

It was a boy?

Sticks and stones ... (-1, Troll)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 3 years ago | (#35473014)

What ever happened to:

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.

When did we all turn into a bunch of pussies who are unable to shrug off this sort of bullshit?

Re:Sticks and stones ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35473034)

Words are used to get people to break your bones. Or maybe you are too dim to realize that?? Hitler and Gabble are most glaring examples. These people most likely never killed anyone with their actions, but tens of millions died because of their words.

Re:Sticks and stones ... (-1, Flamebait)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#35473750)

...tens of millions died because of their words.

Yeah? How does that work? How does a word kill a person if it can't pick up a gun and pull the trigger? How does a word get up in the morning, take a shit and a shower, and put on its uniform? What size boot does a word wear?

Re:Sticks and stones ... (1)

twidarkling (1537077) | more than 3 years ago | (#35473990)

Your and idi0t.

That's about the only consideration your retardation needs in this case. Lulz.

Re:Sticks and stones ... (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#35476244)

:) You win for best response..

This fatty's for you my brother

Re:Sticks and stones ... (1)

Urkki (668283) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474236)

...tens of millions died because of their words.

Yeah? How does that work? How does a word kill a person if it can't pick up a gun and pull the trigger? How does a word get up in the morning, take a shit and a shower, and put on its uniform? What size boot does a word wear?

Depending on which you prefer, you can try reading here [wikipedia.org] or here [d20srd.org] . First one is relevant to a person mentioned by GP, but second is more geeky.

Re:Sticks and stones ... (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#35475964)

heh, the second one was cool :)

The person I responded to doesn't understand that real action is required to kill somebody. Words by themselves can do nothing. Somebody has to act. This point goes over everybody's head (including the moderators) every single time I try to bring this up. The man acquired nothing that wasn't given to him. He gained power through appeasement long before any military action was needed.

Re:Sticks and stones ... (1)

Urkki (668283) | more than 3 years ago | (#35477304)

The person I responded to doesn't understand that real action is required to kill somebody. Words by themselves can do nothing. Somebody has to act. This point goes over everybody's head (including the moderators) every single time I try to bring this up. The man acquired nothing that wasn't given to him. He gained power through appeasement long before any military action was needed.

But with killing, there's always a line that needs to be drawn. Even moment of death isn't clearly defined, and is being stretched by advances in medicine. Assuming a situation where a bullet fired by a gun immediately results in a death of a human it hits: Does a person kill when he pulls a trigger of gun? Does a person kill when he utters a word, which triggers a voice-activated gun (technically trivial to rig even a normal gun to do this). Does a person kill when he utters a word, which "triggers" a firing squad? Does a person kill when he utters a word, which "triggers" a firing squad execution sentence to be carried out? What about sentencing somebody to be killed by a firing squad, in a situation where sentence is very likely to get carried out?

Where you draw the line?

Re:Sticks and stones ... (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#35478510)

Oh c'mon.. too simple. The guy pulling the trigger is the killer. There is nobody else.

Now, with voice activated machines. A voice can trigger a machine reliably. A machine can't choose to refuse. That's the key. So yeah, the voice is the trigger. But when you tell a person, it's another thing altogether. So let's make it easy. The last person in the chain is the guilty one..

Re:Sticks and stones ... (1)

dotfile (536191) | more than 3 years ago | (#35473870)

Gabble??? Or did you possibly mean Joseph Goebbels [wikipedia.org] ?

Re:Sticks and stones ... (1)

Kilrah_il (1692978) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474170)

There's a phone call for you. It's Godwin calling you on line 1.

Re:Sticks and stones ... (1)

advocate_one (662832) | more than 3 years ago | (#35473050)

just wait until someone posts crap about you online that's patently ubtue then...

Re:Sticks and stones ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35473084)

When the intelligence of the general populace became so low that people just believe everything they heard on the News/Internet.

Re:Sticks and stones ... (2)

Mistlefoot (636417) | more than 3 years ago | (#35473108)

And so I publicly state that you, Bitztream, are a child molester, the hour before your interview as a school teacher...........

You still feel the same way?

Hours before an election someone lies about an opponent hoping some won't vote for the opponent. That is clearly libel.

Re:Sticks and stones ... (1)

Shikaku (1129753) | more than 3 years ago | (#35473162)

Pedophilia.

Re:Sticks and stones ... (1)

Velex (120469) | more than 3 years ago | (#35473222)

The problem comes when other people start believing the things an asshat is saying about you, which is trwtf. Apparently most people haven't understood yet that others can lie, no matter how many times a day they say they're Christians and go to church every Sunday.

My roommate lost his fiancee recently because one of his ex's mothers started gossiping that he was a child molester. The fiancee had to choose between being excommunicated from her family for being engaged to a "child molester" and staying in the relationship. Apparently shitting out kids makes you an authoritative and infallible source of information and wisdom in certain circles, and anyone who disagrees with a Mother or has different information be damned.

I know, it's stupid, but it's how people work. No, the fiancee's family didn't like my roommate to begin with, but calling him a child molester gave them the excuse they needed to escalate the drama to force the fiancee to either give up her boyfriend or give up her family.

It really was an amazing situation to watch. I lost of a lot of faith in humanity while I was on the sidelines of that one. For some reason, a drug-addicted single Mother who didn't have the capacity to save herself for marriage has more credibility at Church than a lack of evidence.

In fact, for some people, if they find out which roommate I'm talking about, even though it should be obvious from this post that the accusation was completely baseless, will begin to suspect him of being a child molester simply because I mentioned that someone had accused him of it.

Now, if he'd lost his job because of that gossip, of course he should have legal recourse. Fortunately this gossiping whore^H^H^H^Hbaby-mamma^H^H^H^H^H Mother didn't call up his boss, probably because she knew that she'd be in hot water if she did so and the boss believed her.

Re:Sticks and stones ... (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 3 years ago | (#35473376)

I have a feeling that if he wanted to, he could sue for damage to reputation. Maybe it isn't worth it, but I tell you, if someone started spreading that story about me, they'd be getting a letter from my lawyer with helpful advice about either shutting up and retracting or getting a second mortgage in preparation for paying me damages.

Re:Sticks and stones ... (-1, Troll)

PPH (736903) | more than 3 years ago | (#35473584)

has more credibility at Church

A gullible lot to begin with.

Re:Sticks and stones ... (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 3 years ago | (#35473460)

What ever happened to:

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.

When did we all turn into a bunch of pussies who are unable to shrug off this sort of bullshit?

Speak a little louder into my fountain pen.

Re:Sticks and stones ... (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#35473692)

If words can be become a threat to authority or corporate profit, they must be tightly controlled. This is one of a myriad ways of doing so while providing an illusion of protecting the public.

Re:Sticks and stones ... (1)

Homburg (213427) | more than 3 years ago | (#35473800)

When did we all turn into a bunch of pussies who are unable to shrug off this sort of bullshit?

According to Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] , 130AD. Or, possibly, the 17th century, when the law of libel was codified. Penalties for using words to damage someone's reputation are ancient, there's nothing new here.

Re:Sticks and stones ... (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474506)

"The pen is mightier than the sword" happened to it.

Call me what you like to my face. Accuse me of things in public and then you will hurt me, and I will expect it to be righted.

What is wrong with this picture? (2)

shoes58 (1203522) | more than 3 years ago | (#35473080)

3K actual compensation for the libel, 50K to the bottom feeding lawyers... And we think we have it bad here in America...

Re:What is wrong with this picture? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35473134)

It must have taken 15 mythical man months of legal work to successfully close this case. The whole judicial system was probably too busy twittering about the previous sex party to do their work. Because inefficiency can be sexy too..

Re:What is wrong with this picture? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35473140)

That's actually the only thing wrong with this picture. The actual libel case sounds pretty reasonable.

Re:What is wrong with this picture? (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 3 years ago | (#35473174)

I'm curious, how much do you think a lawyer should be able to legitimately charge per hour? You can put it in dollars or pounds if you choose to answer...

Re:What is wrong with this picture? (1)

twidarkling (1537077) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474080)

I don't think it's the per hour charge, but the hours billed that's excessive in most cases. For what seems like a relatively simple libel case, 50k GBP at even 200/hr would be 250 hours of work. At 40 hours/week, that's 6 solid weeks of work. Since most lawyers take on more than one case at a time, you can stretch that out to 3 months easily just by working on two cases. That seems like a fairly extreme amount of time for what boils down to a case where the lawyer's research takes 5 minutes to get the tweet, and then let's be generous and say 40 hours to get precedents. It shouldn't take that much court time for a case like this.

So yes, there's still something wrong with the picture.

Lawyers are scum! (1)

woolio (927141) | more than 3 years ago | (#35475242)

and then let's be generous and say 40 hours to get precedents

Why the hell should should a lawyer earn 10000 pounds just for *1 week* of simple research [90% of which is probably done by a secretary anyway]? That's a freakin' year's salary for some people!

Re:What is wrong with this picture? (1)

dargaud (518470) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474670)

No more than half what the case may bring ? That would cut short a lot of frivolous suits. I mean it doesn't make sense that the guys who 'handle the paperwork' get more money than what the whole thing is about.

Re:What is wrong with this picture? (2)

jmcvetta (153563) | more than 3 years ago | (#35475108)

I would argue that any legal system where access to the law must be purchased is inherently broken.

Re:What is wrong with this picture? (3, Informative)

N1AK (864906) | more than 3 years ago | (#35473180)

3K actual compensation for the libel, 50K to the bottom feeding lawyers..

In the UK it is normal to have to pay the fees for the other party, especially in a case like this. This means that it's quite likely that if he had accepted he was guilty, instead of fighting a lengthy legal battle to try and weasel out of it, he would be paying very little in lawyer's fees.

Re:What is wrong with this picture? (1)

Sir_Sri (199544) | more than 3 years ago | (#35473214)

That legal cost might be because it was precedent setting, and because it involved an election and politicians who, naturally, are in touch with a lot of lawyers.

The damages amount might have something to do with the fact that the defendant claimed this was mistaken identity, as someone was actually removed from the polling station in question, just not the person he implicated. He admitted pretty much everything and agreed to the situation.

I wouldn't be surprised if in future you could see the legal costs go down a fair bit.

Oh and it isn't clear from any of the articles I read, but it looks like the tweet didn't materially change the outcome of the election.

Re:What is wrong with this picture? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35473724)

In the UK you also have to pay for the opponents legal fees and the filing costs if you lose (in the vast majority of cases).

Re:What is wrong with this picture? (1)

gowen (141411) | more than 3 years ago | (#35473482)

Objection your honour: assumes a fact not in evidence. My client would like it stated that the £50,000 cost for legal fees is press conjecture, unsupported by citations.

The math (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35473098)

Here's a fine attempt to make a reasonable prosecution sound unreasonable:
"The fine works out at more than £2,400 per word."

Yes, but those words were put together in such an order that the statement was libellous. So that's £53,000 for each instance of libel/defamation. So what's the problem? You can't slander people (particularly your political opponents) and hope to get off scot-free

Re:The math (1)

Kilrah_il (1692978) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474218)

And, it's not really 2,400 GBP per word. The lawyers' fee was 50,000 GBP, and only 3,000 GBP went for compensation; which means about 130 GBP per word.

But still you are correct, the judgment is for the act, whether it took 4 words (e.g. X is a pedophile) or 23.

Re:The math (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35477334)

The word is spelt "paedophile", you unwashed colonial, and while you're at it, pay your back taxes and also learn to spell "sulphur"!

£3,000 compensation + £50,000 legal fe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35473114)

Lawyers win again.

Re:£3,000 compensation + £50,000 legal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35473212)

They always do. In this race, it's who comes second that matters.

Truth in advertising. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35473244)

Yep. We have truth in advertising laws in the states. Fines can be heavy. Unless, of course, you're a politician spreading crap. Then anything goes.

Erm... small issue (4, Interesting)

jimicus (737525) | more than 3 years ago | (#35473326)

The fine was £3,000. About £130/word.

The legal fees are nothing to do with the fine - Britain has a "loser pays" legal system so being ordered to pay legal fees isn't considered part of the fine.

On the plus side, this means there's a rather strong deterrent against frivolous lawsuits - "no win, no fee" (assuming your solicitor takes the case on that basis) only applies to your legal team, not the other sides. On the minus side, it means that a big company can add a paragraph to their legal threatograms saying "Please note that if you lose in court, you'll have to pay our fees. We're up to £1,500 already and we haven't even started yet."

Well (1)

woolio (927141) | more than 3 years ago | (#35475254)

On the minus side, it means that a big company can add a paragraph to their legal threatograms saying "Please note that if you lose in court, you'll have to pay our fees. We're up to £1,500 already and we haven't even started yet.

Can we sue them for extortion, then?

Re:Well (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 3 years ago | (#35477418)

Can we sue them for extortion, then?

IANAL, but it wouldn't surprise me if someone's already tried that.

I'm going way off into the land of speculation here, so if any lawyers reading could correct me if I'm wrong that'd be great.

The problem is that AFAICT the legal system doesn't really see itself as some big scary sleeping monster you really shouldn't poke (even if that's how the general public sees it). It sees itself as an impartial place you and someone else can go to and say "We've got a dispute here. Could you help us sort it out?". Which means a letter saying "We'll take you to court" isn't perceived by the legal system as a threat, it's perceived as being roughly equivalent to "Look, there's obviously a dispute here. We can resolve it between ourselves or we can ask someone else to take a look at it. Which, let's face it, neither of us really want to be doing because it'll mean involving others who will want paying. Quite possibly by your good self. We propose resolving it by the following means...."

If you read a typical threatogram, it's usually worded quite carefully. It doesn't say "We will take you to court, you will be ordered to pay, you will have to pay our costs, we will send the bailiffs in, it will mess up your credit rating". It says "If we take you to court, and you lose you may be ordered to pay...."

It follows that it's quite hard to get the legal system to view such letters as extortion. As a result, a few UK businesses have actually adopted this as their business model - and I don't mean just record labels. Look up private parking companies or RLP.

Re:Erm... small issue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35477626)

Legal fees have to be reasonable to be reclaimed.

Also, for claims that full under small claims (something like £2000), there is a low limit on the value of legal fees that can be reclaimed.

how about this one (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35473330)

"Lawyer and skunk both found dead on the road, skid marks in front of the skunk only"

Awful summary and headline (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35473332)

He wasn't prosecuted, he was sued. There wasn't a "fine" and far from working out at over £2,400 per word, the damages only came to £3,000 in total.

The article doesn't support the summary's claim of "£50,000 legal fees".

And seriously "this case reaffirms that anything posted in the public domain is subject to libel laws" I don't know where to start with that - did the submitter think that there might be an "except on Twitter" get out to libel laws? Do they think that the key point here is that the comments were public as opposed to sent to a selective email list?

Re:Awful summary and headline (1)

517714 (762276) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474286)

Wait, AC RTFA? I thought daylight saving was ahead an hour not nineteen days.

Re:Awful summary and headline (1)

Grumbleduke (789126) | more than 3 years ago | (#35474850)

What this person said, with extra emphasis.

Also worth noting that the court doesn't seem to have ordered him to pay £3,000, he *offered* to pay it (i.e. the case was settled). It may well be that no judgment is made, but I will keep an eye out for one.

Re:Awful summary and headline (1)

arbitraryaardvark (845916) | more than 3 years ago | (#35476056)

mod parent up; AC is correct that the headline was wrong. maybe we're just used to that here.

Derp (1, Interesting)

Legion303 (97901) | more than 3 years ago | (#35475820)

"The fine works out at more than £2,400 per word."

On the topic of meaningless algebra, if you express the length of a regulation football (American) field in cm it also works out to just under £5 per cm.

If he were in free fall at terminal velocity for 10 seconds, he'd be spending over £96 for every meter he fell. That's a lot of money!

Or we could stop expressing numbers idiotically and just say he was fined £3,000 and charged £50,000 in legal costs.

Twitter grammar for dummies (1)

UBfusion (1303959) | more than 3 years ago | (#35476656)

Hasn't he read "Twitter grammar for dummies", chapter 2, "Watch your commas!" pp. 32-24 (2008)?

Assignment 1: Tick the correct answer and then post it on Twitter:

1. The Mayor said, Talbot is an ass.

2. The Mayor, said Talbot, is an ass.

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