On Monday 26 September 2022 Mr Justice Nicklin approved a Consent Order recording the discontinuance of the libel action brought by Richard Millett against Jeremy Corbyn arising out of statement made by Mr Corbyn during an interview on The Andrew Marr Show on 23 September 2018. The claim has been discontinued with no order as to costs. The trial of the action had been due to begin on Monday 10 October 2022 before the same judge and was scheduled to last 3 weeks.
The parties released the following statement:
“The libel claim brought by Richard Millett against the Rt Hon Jeremy Corbyn MP has been settled. Mr Corbyn has paid no damages, has made no apology and has given no undertakings concerning repetition of the words complained of. No costs have been paid by either party to the other as part of this settlement save in respect of an outstanding Order of the Court of Appeal from April 2021.
Neither party will be making any other comment about the case.”
At a hearing in 2020 Saini J ruled that although Mr Corbyn had not named Mr Millett, he would have been recognisable to some viewers as one of the persons about whom Mr Corbyn said that (1) on one occasion he had been so disruptive at a meeting in the House of Commons that the police wished to remove him from the premises, but Mr Corbyn asked that he be allowed to remain; (2) he had acted in a disruptive way at other meetings; and (3) at a further meeting he had been extremely abusive in his treatment of Mr Hassassian (the Palestinian Ambassador) after Mr Hassassian had spoken at the meeting based on what Mr Hassassian had said and/or the views he was expressing.
Saini J ruled that these meanings were all defamatory statements of fact, a decision upheld by the Court of Appeal in April 2021 (which made the Order referred to in the statement set out above).
Mr Corbyn defended the action on the bases (1) that what he had said about Mr Millett was true; (2) that he reasonably believed it to have been in the public interest to say what he said about Mr Millett, and (3) that he had been speaking honestly on an occasion of qualified privilege.
The trial was scheduled to last 15 days because Mr Corbyn intended to call 30 supporting witnesses as to Mr Millett’s conduct at 20 meetings. The trial would also have been the first to consider the defence of Publication on a Matter of Public Interest under s.4 Defamation Act 2013 in the context of a live TV broadcast interview. That interesting legal issue will have to wait for another day.
William McCormick KC, instructed by Martin Howe of Howe & Co. represented Mr Corbyn following the Court of Appeal decision.