Rachel Riley waits for ruling in libel damages fight against former Corbyn aide

The Countdown presenter sued Laura Murray over a tweet posted two years ago.
Rachel Riley waits for ruling in libel damages fight against former Corbyn aide

By Brian Farmer, PA

Television presenter Rachel Riley is waiting to hear whether she has won a damages fight after suing a former aide to Jeremy Corbyn for libel.

Ms Riley, 35, a numbers expert on the Channel 4 show Countdown, sued Laura Murray, 32, over a tweet posted two years ago.

Mr Justice Nicklin has finished overseeing a three-day trial at the High Court in London, and said he would deliver a ruling on a date to be fixed.

The judge heard evidence from Ms Riley and Ms Murray earlier in the week and on Wednesday lawyers representing both women made final legal submissions.

Both women posted tweets after Mr Corbyn, who was then Labour leader, was hit with an egg while visiting a mosque in March 2019.

The judge heard that Ms Murray had tweeted in response to a tweet by the television presenter.

Laura Murray
Laura Murray (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Ms Riley initially posted a screenshot of a January 2019 tweet by Guardian columnist Owen Jones, about an attack on former British National Party leader Nick Griffin, which said: “I think sound life advice is, if you don’t want eggs thrown at you, don’t be a Nazi.”

She had added “Good advice”, with emojis of a red rose and an egg.

Later, Ms Murray tweeted: “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.”

Ms Riley says she was being sarcastic in her tweet, she did not call Mr Corbyn a Nazi, and Ms Murray’s tweet caused serious harm to her reputation.

Ms Murray was stakeholder manager in Mr Corbyn’s office when he was Labour leader and went on to be the party’s head of complaints.

In her defence to Ms Riley’s claim she said what she tweeted was true and reflected her honestly held opinions.

Mr Justice Nicklin ruled at an earlier hearing that Ms Murray’s tweet was defamatory.

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

He has been asked to consider whether serious harm was caused to Ms Riley’s reputation, and whether Ms Murray has a defence of truth, honest opinion or public interest.

William Bennett QC, representing Ms Riley, told Mr Justice Nicklin that what Ms Murray tweeted was not reasonable and had significantly harmed Ms Riley’s reputation.

He said damages were “difficult to measure”.

Lawyers said outside court that they expected the judge to decide on a damages figure if he decided Ms Riley’s reputation had been significantly harmed and concluded that Ms Murray had no defence.

Ms Riley, who studied mathematics at Oxford University, had told the judge she was Jewish and had a “hatred of anti-Semitism”.

She said she spoke out against anti-Semitism and thought the Corbyn-led Labour Party was “fostering anti-Semitism”.

Ms Murray told the judge that her job had involved her working with the Jewish community to “try to find solutions to the problem of anti-Semitism which was becoming evident within parts of the Labour Party membership”.

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