Back in April I wrote about Lesley Kemp, a transcriber who was sued for defamation in England when she complained on Twitter about delays in being paid by Resolution Productions and its principal Kirby Kearns. When I wrote Resolution Productions seeking comment, I received a threatening-to-the-best-of-his-limited-abilities email from Barjinder Sahota of Sahota Solicitors who demanded that I "resist and desist" writing bad things about his clients. I responded like me.
Good news today: Ms. Kemp has won and the plaintiff Kirby Kearns has abandoned the field. Kemp was tremendously fortunate to secure pro bono help from Robert Dougans of Bryan Cave and no-win-no-fee help from Jonathan Price of Ely Place Chambers, with support from the Libel Reform Campaign and from censorious-thuggery survivor Simon Singh. Kemp reports that her team backed Kirby Kearns and Sahota off with a clever gambit: since Kirby Kearns is a resident of Qatar, they asked the English court to force him to post a bond to secure costs, which he was unwilling to do:
As Mr Kearns is resident in Qatar, my solicitors applied for an order requiring Mr Kearns to pay money into court as security for my costs of defending the claim. Despite his solicitors threatening me with indemnity costs orders for making this application and saying it was unfounded (although never explaining why), Mr Kearns on 18 November 2013 decided to 'discontinue the claim' 2 weeks from when my application was going to be heard. Mr Kearns explains this decision as being based on being unwilling to pay security for my costs.
Ms. Kemp was unfortunate to be menaced by a such a lawsuit, and unfortunate to be subjected to it in England (which, despite the best efforts of reformers, is still a haven for libel tourism thanks to its pro-plaintiff libel laws), but she's extremely lucky to get such an able team to help her without cost to her. Freedom of expression depends not just on laws and efforts to reform them, but on principled individuals like Mr. Dougans and Mr. Price donating their skills and standing up to contemptible censorship. Freedom of expression also depends upon citizens inflicting social consequences upon the plaintiffs who bring suits like this and the lawyers who represent them. People who bully should be treated like bullies.
Mr. Sahota never wrote me again after my reply to his threat to me. If anyone reading this has been threatened with a defamation suit by Mr. Sahota or his firm, I have been asked to convey that there are solicitors in England who stand ready to represent you for free or on a no-win-no-fee basis, depending on the case.
Stand up against censorship.
Edited to add: Mr. Kearns has released a public statement, which I have uploaded here for your review of his version of events.