Yesterday, 27 February, marked the start of one of the most high profile libel trials. Warby J is to hear the case over two days and the judgment is expected next week.
The case concerns a tweet sent on 28 May 2015 by the defendant, MailOnline columnist, Katie Hopkins that was aimed at the claimant Jack Monroe, a food writer.
The tweet, and now the case, arose following the 2015 election and the subsequent demonstrations in London. During the demonstration a war memorial in Whitehall was defaced. The defacing of the war memorial had then been publicised by the media, his fuelled considerable debate both by politicians in parliament the public on social media.
This is when the exchange of tweets from the Katie Hopkins and Jack Monroe ensued. The claim alleges that one of the tweets bore the natural and ordinary meaning that:
ÂThe claimant had vandalised a war memorial and had thereby desecrated the memory of those who fought for her freedom and had committed a criminal actÂ or on the other hand that ÂThe claimant condoned or approved of the criminal vandalisation of a war memorial and the consequent desecration of the memory of those who fought for her freedomÂ .
The defendant, Katie Hopkins, claims that the tweet did not bore the above listed meaning. It will be argued, on her behalf, that a reasonable reader of Twitter would have known that it was a misdirected attempt to criticise the claimantÂs comments regarding the defacement of the war memorial.
This case is high profile both because of the people involved and because it will be the first time that the Âserious harmÂ test found in the Defamation Act 2013 will be considered in conjunction with Twitter.Â Twitter has a character limit of 140 characters and in a previous case tweets has been described as Âvulgar abuseÂ and not statements of fact.
This may make the claimants allegation that the tweets caused Âserious harmÂ harder to prove rather than if the comments were made in a tangible media publication.
One thing is certain, in that the case will fuel media attention, and another certainty is that Lawdit will be reporting on the outcome next week.Â