Kezia Dugdale ‘delighted’ after winning defamation fight with blogger
Wings Over Scotland’s Stuart Campbell sued the MSP over a column she wrote in March 2017.
Former Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale has successfully defended a defamation case brought by a pro-independence blogger over a claim he wrote homophobic tweets.
Wings Over Scotland blogger Stuart Campbell sued the Lothian MSP over a column she wrote in the Daily Record on March 7, 2017, referencing his “homophobic tweets”.
The tweet at the centre of the £25,000 action, made during the Conservative Party conference on March 3 that year, said: “Oliver Mundell is the sort of public speaker that makes you wish his dad had embraced his homosexuality sooner.”
During the civil case at Edinburgh Sheriff Court, Mr Campbell, 51, from Bath, denied it was a homophobic reference to Scottish Secretary David Mundell being gay and described it as “satirical criticism” of the public speaking skills of his son, Scottish Conservative MSP Oliver Mundell.
— Kezia Dugdale (@kezdugdale) April 17, 2019
Huge, heartfelt “thank yous” due to so many people across the political spectrum who supported me throughout this recent court case.
Here’s what I have to say following the ruling in my favour today: pic.twitter.com/e6ncVpxpM3
In a written judgment issued after the case was heard in the court last month, Sheriff Nigel Ross said Ms Dugdale’s article contained defamatory statements about Mr Campbell’s character but was protected by the defence of fair comment.
He said: “Mr Campbell intended the tweet to be insulting about Oliver Mundell’s speaking abilities, and the reference to his father’s homosexuality was intended as a basis for a jibe directed at the son.
“The jibe was to the effect that a homosexual man would not father children and therefore his son would never have been born and become a public speaker.”
He said Mr Campbell does not hold homophobic views and has a history of supporting and promoting equal rights, including gay rights.
The sheriff said Ms Dugdale’s article contained the necessary elements for a defence of fair comment as her comments were fair, even though incorrect.
The sheriff said her article was based on true facts, the statements complained about were comments not facts, it concerned a matter of public interest, and the comments were fair.
He said: “Despite Ms Dugdale incorrectly implying that Mr Campbell is homophobic, her article is protected under the principle of fair comment.
“She is not liable to pay damages to Mr Campbell.”
He said that if he had been awarding damages in the case, they would have been assessed at £100.
Following the judgment, Ms Dugdale thanked those who supported her throughout the case.
She said: “I am delighted to have won this case and hugely relieved after two long years of it hanging over me.
“I cannot thank the team at the Daily Record enough. They stood by me as I stood up to him and won. Their support has been fulsome and unwavering throughout such a difficult time.
“This is an important judgment for the right to free speech and a healthy press. This ruling clearly demonstrates that every citizen is entitled to make comments as long as they are fair and reflect honestly held views.”
Wings Over Scotland tweeted: “We’ve received the sheriff’s decision on the Kezia Dugdale court case. Short version: I’m not a homophobe, she did defame me, but she gets away with it.”
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: “This is an important win for Kezia and for free speech. She stood up to bullying and won.
“All those engaged in the exchange of political views should reflect on this, take stock and consider how we speak to and about others with whom we disagree.”