May 29, 2019
Crowdfund a defence
It is no coincidence that those who use the courts to pursue people for defamation are extremely wealthy. They have to be because win or lose, defend or pursue, the legal costs involved in these cases are staggeringly high. And this is the position that one of our MSPs, Andy Wightman, finds himself in. Over the years, Andy has been instrumental in advancing the cause of progressive and radical land reform in Scotland. He now faces financial ruin because he must defend himself in court against an action for defamation. He’s put the call out for some support.
On 21 March 2017 I was served with a summons by Wildcat Haven Enterprises CIC. It is a defamation action in which the pursuer is claiming £750,000 damages (plus 8% annual interest). The action relates to two blogs I wrote In September 2015 and February 2016.
The case will be heard in the Court of Session over 8 days commencing 29 October 2019. The judicial costs (the time spent in court) have been estimated by a Judicial Accountant at £110,000. In addition, there are other legal costs incurred in preparing the case. These are estimated to be in the region of a further £70,000 (thus a total cost of around £180,000). I raised £54,000 in a previous crowdfunder. Further costs that I am meeting personally include research and travel costs associated with gathering evidence across the UK and in the Channel Islands.
I am thus launching what I hope will be a finalto raise £120,000.
Unlike other defamation actions where the content of the alleged defamatory material is well publicised, I need to conceal the blogs in question and cannot publish the detailed allegations until they are entered in court proceedings.
Please therefore note the following before deciding whether to donate.
1. Neither you nor I can know what the result of this case will be. I am confident that I have not defamed the pursuer but the Court has been asked to determine that. Before you donate therefore, be aware that you cannot form an informed view on the likelihood of success.
2. If I am successful in defending this case, I should be able to secure the recovery of most of my legal expenses. The pursuer has deposited £110,000 in the Court to cover this eventuality. In this event, I will reimburse all those who have contributed to my defence fund in proportion to what each party (including myself) has contributed. Thus, if I am successful, you can be assured that you will receive some of your donation back. I have appointed a Chartered Accountant to conduct an independent audit of my costs. An audited statement to 13 May 2018 is available.
3. Funds raised in thisshall be used solely for my legal expenses in the case. If I lose the case and damages are awarded to my pursuer, I shall be personally liable for those. If those damages are substantial, I may have no option but to declare myself bankrupt and be disqualified from serving as an MSP.
Finally, there are a lot of very deserving causes out there. I am launching this crowdfunder because some people have offered to help and for that I am very grateful. So please do consider carefully whether you wish to support this appeal or not.
Thank you to everyone who has provided generous support over the past two years.