Photo credit: TED Conference (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 DEED)
The UK Anti-SLAPP Coalition reiterates its support for Carole Cadwalladr following the Supreme Court decision to refuse her permission to appeal the costs order made by the Court of Appeal in May 2023. This relates to the defamation action brought against her by millionaire businessman and political donor Arron Banks. The UK Anti-SLAPP Coalition has long categorised this case as a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP), aimed at intimidating and silencing Cadwalladr.
The decision issued by Lord Reed, Lady Rose and Lord Richards ordered that “permission to appeal be refused because the proposed appeal does not raise an arguable point of law”. It further stated that the Supreme Court could not interfere with the exercise of the Court of Appeal’s discretion to award costs, unless the court “erred in principle or exercised its discretion in an unreasonable manner, and neither of those conditions is met”.
Banks’ legal action, filed in June 2022, related to a TED Talk and tweet in which Cadwalladr had said the businessman was lying about his relationship with the Russian state. While the judge ruled that Cadwalladr had successfully established a public interest defence for the TED Talk until after April 2020, the Court of Appeal subsequently upheld Banks’ argument that its continued publication had the potential to harm his reputation. However, it dismissed two other grounds of his appeal, upholding the initial decision to dismiss the claim in respect of the tweet. Although the court acknowledged that Cadwalladr does not have control over TED’s publications, she will nonetheless be liable for the damages arising from the publication of the TED Talk after April 2020.
In May 2023, the costs order was published by the Court of Appeal, which stated that Cadwalladr must pay 60% of Banks’ High Court costs , repay the full amount of costs which Banks made to her pursuant to the High Court Costs Order, and one third of Banks’ costs before the Court of Appeal.
The UK Anti-SLAPP Coalition Co-Chairs said:
“The UK Anti-SLAPP Coalition is deeply disappointed that the Supreme Court refused Carole’s permission to appeal the cost order following Banks’ appeal. It is important to reassert that Banks was only successful on less than 10% of the publications he sued on. Yet the application of the UK costs rules for libel means that Carole is now expected to pay a six-figure sum. We cannot have a level playing field when lodging a defence or fighting a case through different courts can threaten your livelihood or render you bankrupt.”
Index on Censorship
Reporters Without Borders UK
National Union of Journalists
Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP)
The Gemini Project
Clothilde Redfern, Director, Rory Peck Trust
Dr Andrew Scott, London School of Economics and Political Science