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Andy Wightman wins defamation case

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Andy Wightman wins defamation case

Judge Lord Clark ruled in the court of session that Wightman did not defame the company and that his comments were made in the public interest as “responsible journalism”

Andy Wightman has won a £750,000 defamation lawsuit brought against him by the company Wildcat Haven Enterprise.

The Scottish Green MSP and land reform campaigner had been accused of damaging the reputation of the business in blog and social media posts in 2015 and 2016.

Judge Lord Clark ruled in the court of session that Wightman did not defame the company and that his comments were made in the public interest as “responsible journalism”.

He also found that the company did not prove a loss of £750,000 as a result of Wightman’s comments, meaning no damages will have to be paid.

Wightman crowdfunded over £170,000 to help fund his legal defence, which the MSP says cost over £150,000.

Wightman said that he would be able to refund “a substantial part” of the donations. He also said an expenses hearing is expected to take place “in due course”.

The company had alleged that Wightman was “driven by malice and that there was a dominant intent to injure”.

Clark found the arguments about malice failed, and malice was not relevant because “if the statements of fact were substantially true, malice cannot affect that defence”.

Clark did find that Wightman had made several “untrue” and “careless” statements about the company in the original blog as well as in subsequent social media posts, but that “does not itself mean that the defamatory allegations complained of by the pursuer were made”.

In regard to the claim made by the company about a decline in sales as a result of Wightman’s post, Clark said that “the evidence about any actual decline in sales was at best unclear”.

Speaking of Wightman, Clark said: “In my opinion, the pursuer’s submissions about malice (which were in any event not the subject of specific averments) are without foundation.

“Mr Wightman was a credible and reliable witness. He gave his evidence in an honest, straightforward and coherent manner.

“I accept his evidence about what he knew and did not know at the time of the various publications.

“The suggestion that he made statements that he knew were untrue simply has no proper basis.”

Following the decision, Wightman said: "I’m delighted with this judgement from Lord Clark. I would like to thank my legal team of Campbell Deane and Roddy Dunlop QC for their support, diligence and hard work over the past three years. I’d also like to thank my family and colleagues at work for their support and understanding over this period.

"I want to pay particular thanks to the thousands of people who generously contributed to my crowdfunder, without whom I would simply have been unable to defend myself. I have been hugely encouraged by their ongoing support.

"The National Union of Journalists and Scottish PEN have also been very supportive as part of their wider campaign for defamation reform. I have maintained throughout that I did not defame the pursuer and that this action should never have been brought against me.

"It is vital that Parliament modernises the law of defamation to ensure that the law provides the right balance between freedom of expression and the rights of people not to have their reputations tarnished. It is also important that the law is clear, so that writers and journalists can write confidently and provide the freedom of expression that is so important in any democracy."

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