Saturday, 30 May 2020

Wingnuts Over Scotland

Scottish Legal News provides an excellent summary and explanation of the Court of Session's decision to throw out the defamation appeal from Wingnuts Over Scotland.

The three judges agreed with the decision of the sheriff in the original trail who concluded that: 

The pursuer was not entitled to hold others to a higher standard of respect than he was willing to adopt himself. He had chosen insult and condemnation as his style, and had received these in return after “entering the political arena with a quiver of poisoned arrows”.

Wings Over Scotland blogger loses defamation appeal against former Scottish Labour leader

Lord Carloway

A blogger who sued the former leader of the Scottish Labour Party for defamation for calling him “homophobic” in response to a tweet he had made about a Scottish Conservative Party MSP has had his appeal refused.

Stuart Campbell, who has run the Wings Over Scotland blog since 2011, challenged an interlocutor of the sheriff that assoilzied Kezia Dugdale in his action of defamation.

The appeal was heard in the Inner House of the Court of Session by the Lord President, Lord Carloway, sitting with Lord Menzies and Lord Brodie.

Rational, if incorrect

The alleged defamatory comment was made in response to a tweet from the pursuer made during the 2017 Scottish Conservative & Unionist Party Conference in which he said that Oliver Mundell MSP, the son of the then-Scottish Secretary David Mundell MP, was “the sort of public speaker that makes you wish his dad had embraced his homosexuality sooner”.

In her weekly column in the Daily Record, the defender referred to these comments as “homophobic” and implied that David Mundell was facing abuse for his homosexuality. The article was accompanied by a photograph of the two Mundells with the caption “ABUSED”, and stated that the pursuer had “spouted hatred and homophobia towards others”.

The pursuer raised an action in the Sheriff Court for defamation. He argued that the sole purpose of the tweet was to ridicule Oliver Mundell and denigrate his public speaking skills, and that no reasonable person would find it to be homophobic.

The sheriff found that, while the meaning of the article was that the pursuer was homophobic and he was not, the defender’s article was fair comment. He found that the defender’s interpretation of the tweet was rational, if incorrect, and could be justified from the underlying facts. The reasonable reader would be able to work out what the defender’s reasoning had been and, therefore, whether it was fair.

Further, the sheriff found that the pursuer had suffered no quantifiable loss as a result of the defender’s comments. The pursuer was not entitled to hold others to a higher standard of respect than he was willing to adopt himself. He had chosen insult and condemnation as his style, and had received these in return after “entering the political arena with a quiver of poisoned arrows”.

On appeal, the pursuer argued that the defence of fair comment was only available where there was an opinion based on true facts. This was not made out in this case for three reasons. Firstly, the defender’s article was made up of statements of fact, not comment, as comment had to be clearly identified as such. The article’s primary premise was the assumed fact that the pursuer was an abusive homophobe. The words would not strike the ordinary, reasonable reader as setting forth merely the defender’s opinion of the pursuer’s character.

Secondly, if the defamatory statements were comment, there were no sufficient and accurate facts upon which it was based. The article contained a number of factual errors such as referring to “tweets” in the plural and stating that he had “spouted homophobia”. The statement that there had been more than one homophobic tweet was not, as the sheriff had found, a minor inaccuracy.

Thirdly, the comment was not “fair”. There needed to be an objective assessment of how reasonable the defender’s views were and whether she had any basis upon which she could go beyond the tweet to describe the pursuer as homophobic. Regardless of his writing style, the accusation of homophobia was a serious imputation on character, and a reasonable sum of damages was therefore justifiable.

Context of opinion

The opinion of the court was delivered by Lord Carloway. Having reasserted the sheriff’s view that the article was defamatory he went on to consider whether it was fact or comment, saying: “The defender’s article is at the top of a page which is dedicated to the defender’s views on political and other topics. It is not part of a news reporting section. It is accompanied by pieces on female equality, trades unions in supermarkets, the Conservatives’ austerity programme and the fortunes of Hibernian FC. The context points towards the piece being one of opinion rather than fact.”

On the errors in the article, he said: “There is undoubtedly an error in the defender’s statement of her factual basis in its reference to tweets (plural). Although the prospect of a reader checking Twitter to ascertain whether there was more than one tweet is an unlikely one, in its context, this error is of no materiality. The relevant facts, which were true, were that a tweet had been sent. It had been sent by the pursuer. It contained material which was critical of David and/or Oliver Mundell.”

On whether the comment was fair, he said: "This, once more, is to be approached as a jury question. It is not simply one of whether the defender genuinely held the view that, given the terms of the tweet, the pursuer was homophobic and abusive. There is an objective element of whether a reasonable person could reach that, albeit erroneous, view.”

He continued: “The court agrees with the sheriff’s conclusion that this was indeed fair comment. The pursuer’s tweet was a derogatory remark containing a gratuitous reference to Oliver Mundell’s father’s homosexuality. The defender’s comments may have been expressed in strong, if not inflammatory, language. The fact that they are in ‘vituperative or contumelious language’ does not avoid the defence.”

Regarding the extent of damages if the pursuer had succeeded, he added: "The sheriff was right to regard an accusation of homophobia as a serious one in contemporary society. The article was published in a national newspaper with a substantial circulation. The sheriff appears to have accepted that the pursuer was a man of principle, who was genuinely offended by the article and regarded it as unpleasant to be referred to in this manner.”

He concluded: “Although there are examples of parsimony in judicial awards in such circumstances, the correct approach is to make an award of some substance, even when there has been no serious impact on a person’s reputation. The impact of a defamatory statement on a person’s feelings should not be underestimated. Had the court found in favour of the pursuer, it would not have considered a nominal award to be appropriate. It would instead have awarded £5,000 as solatium to represent the pursuer’s injured or hurt feelings.”

For these reasons, the appeal was refused.

Wingnuts Over Scotland - The Biter Bit (Again) 29/05/20)

The Daily Record reports that the 'Wingnuts Over Scotland' blogger Stu Campbell has had his defamation appeal thrown out by the Court of Session. 

Kezia Dugdale's QC, Roddy Dunlop had previously argued that the trial judges should dismiss the appeal describing Mr Campbell in the following terms:

"This is a man who lives or dies on the basis of freedom of expression, who spends his time online belittling, reviling and abusing anyone with the temerity to disagree with his world view."

All of which just goes to show that the 'cybernuts' who donated hard-earned cash to crowdfund this ridiculous legal action have far more money than common sense.
Wings Over Scotland loses appeal in defamation case against Kezia Dugdale
The blogger sued the former Labour MSP over a column she wrote in the Daily Record, but his legal action has failed

By Paul Hutcheon - Daily Record

Kezia Dugdale - Photo Daily Record

A pro-independence blogger has lost his appeal in a £25,000 defamation case he pursued against former Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale.

Judges rejected the legal bid by Stuart Campbell, who runs the Wings Over Scotland website.

The court dispute centred on a tweet Campbell, who lives in Bath, wrote three years ago.

Wingnuts Over Scotland - Irony Is Dead (24/04/20)

I have to admit lawyers don't make me laugh too often, at least not intentionally, but Roddy Dunlop QC was in fine form with the following description of Stuart Campbell, the chief wingnut at Wings Over Scotland.

"This is a man who lives or dies on the basis of freedom of expression, who spends his time online belittling, reviling and abusing anyone with the temerity to disagree with his world view."

Spot on if you ask me, because this is the same vile little man who insists that Liverpool fans were responsible for the Hillsborough Disaster.

Roddy Dunlop QC asked the three judges in the case to reject the appeal insisting that the irony of the legal action "remains lost" on Mr Campbell. 

I suspect that's true you know, but read the full story via the link below to The Herald and decide for yourself.

Wings Over Scotland urges court to overturn Kezia Dugdale defamation ruling

By Alistair Grant - The Herald

Kezia Dugdale and Wings Over Scotland blogger Stuart Campbell

A LAWYER acting for a pro-independence blogger who lost a £25,000 defamation battle against Kezia Dugdale has urged a court to overturn the decision.

Stuart Campbell, who runs the website Wings Over Scotland, tried to sue the former Scottish Labour leader last year after she accused him of writing “homophobic tweets”.

But Sheriff Nigel Ross ruled Ms Dugdale did not have to pay damages following a three-day hearing in Edinburgh.

He found that although she was incorrect to imply Mr Campbell was a homophobe in her Daily Record column, the article was covered by the defence of fair comment.

He later ordered Mr Campbell to pay Ms Dugdale’s full legal expenses, plus a 50 per cent “uplift”.

Mr Campbell is appealing the decision in the Inner House of the Court of Session, where three senior judges heard the case virtually in a legal first sparked by the coronavirus crisis.

Craig Sandison QC, who is acting for the blogger, told the court the defence of fair comment fails on three separate grounds.

But Roddy Dunlop QC, acting for Ms Dugdale, urged the judges to reject the appeal and insisted the irony of the legal action "remains lost" on Mr Campbell.

He said: "This is a man who lives or dies on the basis of freedom of expression, who spends his time online belittling, reviling and abusing anyone with the temerity to disagree with his world view."

But the "first time someone dare stand up to him," Mr Dunlop said, "his first thought is to sue".

The legal row centres on a tweet Mr Campbell, 52, sent in March 2017.

He wrote that the former Scottish Secretary David Mundell’s son, the Tory MSP Oliver Mundell, was “the sort of public speaker that makes you wish his dad had embraced his homosexuality sooner”.

David Mundell came out as gay in 2016.

Writing in her Daily Record column a few days later, Ms Dugdale said she was “shocked and appalled to see a pro-independence blogger’s homophobic tweets”, and accused Wings Over Scotland of spouting “hatred and homophobia towards others”.

Mr Campbell strongly refutes this and accused her of defamation.

Mr Sandison said the first ground for appeal "is that the allegation of homophobia made by the article written by the defender was an allegation of fact, not of opinion or comment".

He said a homophobe "is a thing that exists in the world, just as a racist is a thing that exists in the world".

He said the article made a specific allegation of homophobia.

He said: "I accept that this is a comment piece, on a comment page.

"But crucially, comment – necessarily, in my submission – has to be about something.

"And what the elements of comment in this article are the supposed fact that the pursuer is a homophobe, or homophobic."

Mr Sandison also argued Ms Dugdale's article contained insufficient reference to the facts on which it was based.

He told the court: "She alleged not that the pursuer had made a single tweet which she considered homophobic, but rather that he had made an unspecified number of homophobic tweets."

The lawyer said this made the allegation very different.

But Mr Dunlop insisted it would be a "very odd situation indeed" if a misplaced letter S could destroy the defence.

He added: "A single communication sent to multiple recipients merits the use of the plural - especially, I would content, where someone like the pursuer plainly uses Twitter in the knowledge, expectation and doubtless hope that one's tweet will be retweeted and thus gain greater currency."

Elsewhere, Mr Sandison insisted the comment itself "was not fair within the meaning of Scots law".

He said whether someone honestly believes something is not enough to make that comment "fair".

Honesty is not the same as fairness, the lawyer argued, and Scots law is concerned with what is "substantively fair".

He said Ms Dugdale made no effort to check Mr Campbell's previous publications to ascertain whether he is a homophobe, and was not prepared to call him a homophobe in court.

Mr Sandison also argued there is no rational basis to conclude Mr Campbell's tweet was homophobic.

He said it was an "unkind tweet", adding: "In so far as it was a joke, it doesn't seem to me to be a terribly funny joke."

However he did not accept it was "singling out" Mr Mundell's sexuality gratuitously.

He also took issue with Sheriff Ross's ruling that any damages resulting from the defamation action would have been vastly reduced to just £100, partly due to Mr Campbell's abrasive and rude writing style.

Mr Sandison insisted it is an "error of law" to conclude that Mr Campbell can have "no or little hurt feelings" if someone makes a a specific false allegation about an aspect of his character.

He said: "The pursuer gave out rudeness, certainly, but what he got back was a falsehood."

He suggested an award of £25,000 was justified by the seriousness of the allegation.

He said: "The sheriff's approach to matters, just to say if you're rude you're not entitled to anything, is in my submission a plain error in law."

Mr Dunlop argued the ordinary, reasonable reader would know Ms Dugdale's article was a comment piece.

Referring to Mr Campbell's tweet, he said: "It was a gratuitous reference. It wasn't just saying, 'I wish he'd never been born.'

"It was making fun of his father's sexuality to make the point that he wished he'd never been born.

"And that is something that may fairly be described as homophobic, whether or not one agrees with that categorisation."

He added: "When Mr Campbell decided to deride Oliver Mundell by focusing on his father's sexuality, he left himself open to commentary that doing so was homophobic."

Mr Dunlop said there was a "clear and unarguable failure" to prove any damage to reputation.

The appeal was heard before judges Lord Carloway, Lord Menzies and Lord Brodie.

They will issue a decision at a later date.

Wingnuts Over Scotland - 'The Biter Bit' (19/04/19)

Scotland's 'cybernuts' have been venting their spleen on social media since hearing that Stuart Campbell lost his defamation case against Kezia Dugdale, the Lothians MSP and former leader of the Scottish Labour Party.

The bottom line is that the judge was not impressed by the 'Wingnut-in-chief's' case and in Paragraph 97 of a lengthy written decision he rejected that the argument that 'Wee Stu' had been caused any real distress:

"Paragraph 97

When it comes to valuation of Mr Campbell's distress, I do not accept that he can hold others to a higher standard of respect than he is willing himself to adopt. He has chosen insult and condemnation as his style. He has received this in return. To use Mr Dunlop's analogy, having entered the political arena with a quiver of poisoned arrows, to receive an arrow in return might be seen as no more than collateral damage, not an unjust wound. I do not accept that he can dismiss the feelings of his opponents cheaply, but receive a high valuation of his own."

Well said, Sheriff Ross - a case of 'the biter bit' if you ask me.


Wingnuts Over Scotland (01/08/17)

I enjoyed this article by Angela Haggerty in The Herald which highlights a potential court case, a defamation action, involving the Labour leader Kezia Dugdale and the  chap who runs the 'Wingnuts Over Scotland' web site, Stuart Campbell. 

Now I don't know 'Wee Stu', never met the man and I'm blocked from his Twitter account; nor can I tell you if there's an agreed definition of what constitutes homophobic behaviour these days. 

But if it 'walks like a duck and quacks like a duck', personal experience has always taught me to use my own judgment. 

In fact, I wrote about Mr Campbell's ugly attack on David Mundell at the time which was very ill-judged if you ask me, because it focused on the man's sexuality rather than his politics. 

As I shared my thoughts on my blog I asked myself the following question: "What kind of person thinks it's OK to speak in this vile manner, what's wrong with the man?"

Many years ago an old friend of mine responded to a persistent heckler at a trade union conference with the immortal words: "The more I hear from you, the more I believe in birth control" - which was genuinely funny because it was not about the heckler's sexuality or the sexuality of the heckler's dad.

The same cannot be said, I'm afraid, of Mr Campbell's ill-fated attempt at 'humour' at the expense of David Mundell.

And what's not clear to me is why 'Wee Stu' is suing Labour's Kezia Dugdale, but not the cabinet minister David Mundell or his son Oliver who also appear to have condemned the nasty little tweet as 'homophobic', according to the Daily Record and Sunday Mail.

The thing about 'jokes' is they are supposed to be funny, but who knows how this decidedly unfunny episode will end up or who will have the last laugh via the courts.

I doubt it will be the independence movement though because as someone who voted Yes in 2014, I have to say that I think the bullying language of the 'Wingnut-in-chief' is way, way over the top.

If you ask me, he must be a terribly arrogant, self-righteous individual if he thinks this business is worthy of a court case.

Yet, the biggest laugh of all lies in the fact that the 'gobby' Mr Campbell appears not to have the courage of his own convictions because he's asking other people to pay his legal costs.

Now that is hilarious.

Angela Haggerty: Is court action the best way to challenge views we disagree with?

By Angela Haggerty - The Sunday Herald

Angela Haggerty: Is court action the best way to challenge views we disagree with?

DEFAMATION cases can backfire spectacularly. We need only look at the Tommy Sheridan case. After Sheridan successfully sued the News of the World over allegations about his sex life, he was then convicted of perjury. The bitter back and forth between Sheridan and his former colleagues in the Scottish Socialist Party dragged his reputation through the mud, and halted what may otherwise have been an enduring ascendency for the party.

Today, a new defamation case is on the horizon. Pro-independence blogger Stuart Campbell, who operates the Wings Over Scotland website, is suing Scottish Labour leader, unionist and gay woman Kezia Dugdale for damages of £25,000 after she accused him of making homophobic remarks.

At the centre of the case is a Wings Over Scotland tweet aimed at Oliver Mundell, son of gay Scotland Secretary David Mundell, which read: “Oliver Mundell is the sort of public speaker that makes you wish his dad had embraced his homosexuality sooner.”

Wingnuts Over Scotland (05/03/17)

Scotland's angriest 'Wingnut' is making the news headlines again after a particularly ugly Tweet at the expense of a gay cabinet minister, David Mundell.

The Sunday Mail reports that Stuart Campbell tried to laugh his remarks off by saying they were 'Toryphobic' which is nonsense, of course, because his comment was directed at the man's sexuality not his politics.

If you ask me, Campbell is to civic nationalism what Bernard Manning was to stand-up comedy - joyous he ain't.

Read the full report below in the link to The Daily Record/Sunday Mail.

David Mundell slams Indy blogger Wings Over Scotland for 'homophobic' Tweet

Tory MSP Oliver Mundell, son of the openly gay cabinet secretary, also condemned the 'absolutely disgusting' comment.

BY KATRINE BUSSEY - The Sunday Mail/Daily Record

Scottish Secretary David Mundell has blasted the tweet (Photo: Getty)

The Scottish Secretary and his Tory MSP son have blasted a "homophobic" tweet from controversial pro-independence blogger Wings Over Scotland.

When Oliver, the MSP for Dumfriesshire, addressed the Tory conference on Friday, the blog tweeted: "Oliver Mundell is the sort of public speaker that makes you wish his dad had embraced his homosexuality sooner."

David Mundell became the first openly gay Conservative Cabinet secretary when he came out in January 2015.

The Scottish Secretary reacted to the comment, saying: "This sort of behaviour has to be called out. We're not going to face down homophobia unless we call out people who practice it."

His son, who was elected to the Scottish Parliament last May, branded the Wings Over Scotland comment "absolutely disgusting and unacceptable".

But the blogger later insisted that the tweet was "Toryphobic" rather than homophobic.

The Conservative MP also reacted on Twitter, saying: "@NicolaSturgeon asks 'What kind of country do we want to live in?' My answer: not one where homophobia is acceptable."

Wings Over Scotland is run by Stuart Campbell

'WIngnuts' Over Scotland (30/04/16)

I see that 'Wingnuts' Over Scotland's been in the news again with both The Herald and Daily Record reporting on the oafish antics of the angry wee Wingnut-in-chief, the not very reverend Stuart Campbell. 


The Herald

Anger as pro-independence blogger blames Liverpool fans for Hillsborough disaster

By Brian McLaughlin - The Herald 

A PROMINENT blogger has come under fire for blaming Liverpool fans for the Hillsborough disaster despite an inquest vindicating them.

Stuart Campbell, the popular blogger who runs the pro-Independence website Wings over Scotland, faced demands to apologise after he stood by his views that Liverpool supporters were partly to blame for the 1989 tragedy.

On Tuesday, jurors in the Hillsborough inquest concluded that the 96 Liverpool fans who died in the disaster were unlawfully killed.

The Daily Record

Wings Over Scotland blogger slammed for blaming Liverpool fans for Hillsborough tragedy


PRO-INDEPENDENCE writer Stuart Campbell refuses to backtrack on his twisted claims view despite a court ruling the supporters were blameless and were unlawfully killed.

Wings Over Scotland blogger Stuart Campbell blames Liverpool fans for Hillsborough tragedy

A CONTROVERSIAL pro-independence blogger came under fire yesterday over comments made about the disaster.

Stuart Campbell, who runs Wings Over Scotland, was previously criticised for claiming Liverpool fanswere partly at fault over the deaths of the victims. 

In 2012, the blogger insisted that “every single solitary person who died at Hillsborough was killed by Liverpool fans”.

But when asked on Twitter about the verdict yesterday, he said: “My thoughts are that anyone trolling for a reaction on it can go and get f***ed.”

Asked if his views had changed since 2012, he said: “No” and vowed to block those “trolling” him.

'Wingnuts' Over Scotland (14/03/16)

I learned the other day that I have been blocked from the Twitter feed of 'Wings Over Scotland' which I take as something of a backhanded compliment, I have to say.

Because this blocking business arose after I criticised as 'juvenile and sexist' an image that was being promoted by 'Wings' (and some his online chums) to mock and ridicule JK Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter books.

Now the chap behind 'Wings' goes by the name of Rev Stuart Campbell who is not a real reverend, by the way, and lives in middle-England despite being a fervent Scottish nationalist.

But the Rev had the brass neck to say that I 'disrespected' him (as if he was deserving of my respect in the first place) during our Twitter exchange which focused on whether the image was crude and stereotypical.

Needless to say Wings and his Twitter pals thought differently, like naughty schoolboys at the back of the class with their name calling and personal abuse, although I could well imagine the uproar if Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, had been portrayed in a similarly unpleasant light.

If you ask me, the Rev must suffer from 'wee man' syndrome which is familiar to folk in the west of Scotland; the symptoms normally affect vertically challenged males who are highly sensitive to criticism or ridicule while being in a permanently 'gobby' and angry state themselves.

In other words, they love to dish it out but they don't like it one little bit if others stand up to their boorish male behaviour.  

From my short exposure to these Twitter loons I would rebrand them as 'Wingnuts' Over Scotland because their intolerant and oafish behaviour is a poor advert for Scottish independence which is presumably why Yes Scotland decided to disown Wings during the 2014 referendum campaign.   

Or as Frankie Boyle remarked on Twitter recently:

"Can't help feeling that this persuading people to vote for Independence by telling them to go fuck themselves tactic has a few flaws."

Now that is funny, thoughtful and perceptive, and so much more important, politically speaking, than the angry, finger-jabbing invective that is often found on Twitter.