The Day I Was In Contempt Of Parliament

VennerRoad By VennerRoad, 8th Dec 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Personal Experiences

Twenty-one years ago today I served a libel writ at the Palace of Westminster.

The Day I Was In Contempt Of Parliament

Oscar Wilde said he would become famous or notorious, and ended up becoming both. Twenty-one years ago today I achieved infamy of sorts by serving a libel writ within the Palace of Westminster. I was found to be in contempt of Parliament, and a special issue of Hansard was printed just for me. Even Oscar Wilde never had that privilege!

The reason for my serving this writ so need not be discussed here, suffice it to say that the resulting libel actions - four in all, two by myself, and two by colleagues in which I acted as McKenzie friend - brought me both further notoriety and fame in certain quarters. These actions led too to the “reform” of the law of defamation in this country, and to a further mention in Hansard. When the 1996 Defamation Bill was going through Parliament, the left wing MP Jeremy Corbyn accused my colleague Mark Taha and I of of practising “selective terrorism against radical bookshops”, without naming us, of course.

Corbyn was put up to this by a number of parties who doubtless misled him about the nature of the material over which they were being sued, and about the connivance of said bookshops in distributing not simply defamatory but highly inflammatory and at times blatantly illegal material. This dishonest campaign led to the law of defamation being amended to make it more difficult to sue bookshops. I was angry at the time, but with the rise of the Internet the entire concept of defamation has become in many ways obsolete. On YouTube in particular you can find all manner of videos that make the most outrageous, defamatory claims about everyone from Presidents of the United States to minor celebrities. Whether or not Bill Cosby is guilty of any of the allegations made against him recently, he has at least not been accused of serial murder or of - bore, bore - staging the 9/11 attacks as a pretext for turning America into a police state.

In a further, unrelated, libel action, which I won, my reputation was valued at just £14, but I am philosophical about this, in particular every time I expose some shameless celebrity liar who is given space to peddle his wares by the mainstream media, I remind myself that his reputation is worth even less than mine. That includes two former Cabinet Ministers, but not I stress Andrew Mitchell, because although he lost his recent libel action I believe him when he said he did not use that toxic word “plebs”. I advised him not to proceed with it for PR reasons. If I’d realised he’d intended to go ahead, I would have advised him further to opt for a jury trial, which he would have won comfortably instead of being stitched up by the judge.

What does a man do after being found in contempt of Parliament? On January 9, 2012 I heckled the Leveson Inquiry for a very different reason. I was hoping to be found in contempt, but Lord Justice Leveson simply asked me to leave. However, it was worth it for the exposure; as I left the High Court I was greeted by a barrage of press photographers like in one of those Hollywood films. Alas, Michael Stone, Britain’s longest serving miscarriage of justice prisoner, is still behind bars, but at least I tried.

Tags

Contempt Of Parliament, Defamation, Hansard, Libel

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author avatar VennerRoad
Independent researcher based in South East London.

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author avatar viewgreen
8th Dec 2014 (#)

Informative article and thank you for sharing this Parliament experiences. Have a nice day.

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author avatar Retired
8th Dec 2014 (#)

I liked the story told recently about the late Jeremy Thorpe. During a campaign speech he was was heckled by a Conservative supporter who shouted "That's libel" several times. Thorpe's reply was "No it's not - it's slander!"

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author avatar Retired
8th Dec 2014 (#)

nice information..welll...

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author avatar Fern Mc Costigan
9th Dec 2014 (#)

Interesting post and full of great facts!

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
14th Jan 2015 (#)

Well you have been doing your research and are braver than most souls in the land.

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