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'serious harm' caused by defamatory tweets

13 March 2017

Self-confessed 'flippant' right wing commentator, Katie Hopkins has been ordered to pay £24,000 in damages and substantial legal costs, in relation to two defamatory tweets dating back to May 2015.

Shortly after the 2015 General Election, Hopkins used Twitter to hit out at left wing activist Laurie Penny over comments purporting to condone recent “F**k Tory Scum” graffiti on the Memorial to the Women of WWII in Whitehall. However she also tweeted some follow up related statements to the claimant, Jack Monroe, including the tweet:  

@MsJackMonroe scrawled on any memorials recently? Vandalised the memory of those who fought for your freedom. Grandma got any more medals?

Monroe, also a prominent left wing activist, strongly objected but offered to call it quits if Hopkins apologised and donated £5,000 to charity. Hopkins failed to do either, though she did remove one of the tweets and made a retraction. Monroe subsequently commenced proceedings for defamation.

The court found that Hopkins’ tweets, published to thousands, had a defamatory tendency, and that Monroe suffered the “serious harm” required by s1 Defamation Act 2013.

For practitioners, the court’s assessment of the requirement for 'serious harm' is insightful. Meanwhile, for online columnists and social media commentators, the case provides a salutary lesson on the dangers of the often transient but impactful world of Twitter. 

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Mark Daniels

Mark Daniels

Partner and Head of Business Services

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