Daily archives: January 14, 2009

UK Libel Laws Busted

We have comprehensively blown wide apart the UK’s infamously repressive libel laws. Up until now, these have routinely been used not to prevent untruth, but to hide truth on behalf of the ultra-rich. In so doing they have spawned a whole universe of massively wealthy lawyers devoid of any moral values, dedicated only to the service and pursuit of money.

The leeches at Schillings appeared to have scored a routine victory on behalf of their client, notorious mercenary commander Tim Spicer, who has made a fortune from the war in Iraq. They threatened my publisher, Mainstream, with highly expensive legal action and Mainstream dropped my book.

Only ten years ago that would have been it – it would have been extraordinarily difficult to find a way to get the truth out to a wide public. Schillings, Spicer and the British legal system are still living in the 20th Century when English libel laws could effectiively give untold opportunity for repression.

But we are living now, so we put it free online, and published some copies privately. After just two days, a Google search on the precise phrase “The Catholic Orangemen of Togo” brings up 1,810 hits. A great many of these lead to a free download of the book. 23,000 copies of Murder in Samarkand have been sold so far, and most of those have been read by more than one person. But readership of The Catholic Orangemen looks likely to overtake in two weeks the readership that Murder in Samarkand achieved in two years.

So well done Schillings! The greatest publicist I could have!

Now what of Tim Spicer? Having put the very expensive Schillings on to me, he has either discovered a new commitment to free speech, or he was bluffing. No injunctions have appeared at my home in Sinclair Gardens. So now Spicer has either to sue, or stand revealed to the World as a man who tried to bully the truth out of print.

He will not sue, no matter how much I goad him. Not even if I show him some of my own legal advice:

There is no doubt that Craig is telling the truth. I do not say this because

on any question of fact I would believe Craig over Spicer, though that is the

case. The simple fact is that Craig can corroborate his story whilst Spicer

can’t. Spicer has no witnesses who were present at his meeting with Craig and

who can confirm what he says. Craig has a witness in the person of another

Foreign Office official who not only participated in the meeting but who

actually took notes during the meeting and who Craig says was the one who

actually produced the text of the UN Resolution so that it could be read out to

Spicer. Following the meeting Craig informed his Foreign Office superiors

about his concerns about Spicer. A whole series of meetings and discussions

about the Sierra Leone situation then followed lasting many months over the

course of which Craig abundantly and exhaustively documented his views about

Sierra Leone and the conflict there. These are the diametric opposite of those

that Spicer says Craig expressed during the meeting between Spicer and Craig.

The Foreign Office obviously believes Craig over Spicer because, instead of

disciplining Craig, which it surely would have done if Craig had contrary to

official policy first given Spicer the green light to sell arms illegally to

Sierra Leone in breach of a UN embargo and then lied about it, it instead

appointed Craig to a senior diplomatic post in Accra where he was given the

important job of brokering a peace agreement to end the Sierra Leone conflict.

Since the comments Craig makes about Spicer are true I would have thought it

most unlikely that Spicer would risk bringing a libel action against Craig.

This is not just because in a situation where Craig can corroborate what he

says whilst Spicer can’t the odds overwhelmingly point to Craig winning. It is

because of the serious consequences for Spicer if he were to bring such a case

and lost. These would go far beyond damage to reputation and financial loss.

If a Court were to find that Craig had not libelled Spicer because Craig was

telling the truth, Spicer could find himself once again facing criminal charges

for illegal arms trading. His defence (that the the Foreign Office in the

person of Craig had given him the green light) would be shot to pieces since it

would already have been discredited in advance by the libel Court. The CPS

would be looking at an open goal and this time it might be difficult to do what

was done back in 1998 and simply close the prosecution down. Simply by

bringing the libel action Spicer would have given the whole matter further

publicity whilst by discrediting his own defence Spicer would deprive the CPS

of its main grounds for not bringing a prosecution. There would even be a risk

(not great but by no means negligible) that the trial judge might even

recommend to the DPP that a prosecution be brought against Spicer in which case

calls for such a prosecution would probably be irresistable.

As for Craig’s other comments about Spicer, it is a matter of public knowledge

that Spicer is a mercenary even if that is not the word he uses to describe

himself. Craig is very careful not to make his allegations about Spicer’s

activities as a mercenary too specific, so I personally can see no grounds for

a libel action there. It is again a matter of public record that Spicer (along

with lots of other mercenaries) has been involved in and made a great deal of

money from the war in Iraq. Craig makes a frankly gratuitous comment about

Spicer’s facial appearance, but this is scarcely grounds for a libel action


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