Yesterday a judge finally threw out a defamation claim against Andy Wightman MSP and a ludicrous claim for £750,000 damages against him, made by Dr Paul O’Donoghue of Wildcat Haven Enterprises [and Wilder Britain and Lynx UK Trust], who had argued that Andy had published, with malice, defamatory material on his blog, on Twitter and on Facebook in 2015 and 2016.
Lord Clark ruled that none of Andy’s comments were defamatory and dismissed O’Donoghue’s assertion of financial loss as no evidence was provided to support the claim. This means Andy doesn’t have to pay any damages to O’Donoghue. An expenses hearing will take place in due course to establish whether O’Donoghue will have to cover Andy’s costs.
You can read the full ruling here: Opinion of Lord Clark_WHE v Wightman 2020
[Andy Wightman at a golden eagle nest site in Scotland in his role as Golden Eagle Species Champion. Photo by Ruth Tingay]
This case has been running for several years, putting Andy under enormous stress as he faced bankruptcy and thus the loss of his job had he and his legal team not been able to defend the accusations. If he hadn’t been held in such high regard by thousands of people who helped to crowdfund approx £170,000 to launch a defence, the outcome of this case would have been swift and unjust.
Here’s how Andy broke the news on Twitter after Lord Clark published his verdict:
“I’m delighted with this judgement from Lord Clark. I would like to thank my legal team of Campbell Deane and Roddy Dunlop QC for their support, diligence and hard work over the past three years. I’d also like to thank my family and colleagues at work for their support and understanding over this period.
I want to pay particular thanks to the thousands of people who generously contributed to my crowdfunder, without whom I would simply have been unable to defend myself. I have been hugely encouraged by their ongoing support.
The National Union of Journalists and Scottish PEN have also been very supportive as part of their wider campaign for defamation reform. I have maintained throughout that I did not defame the pursuer and that this action should never have been brought against me.
It is vital that Parliament modernises the law of defamation to ensure that the law provides the right balance between freedom of expression and the rights of people not to have their reputations tarnished. It is also important that the law is clear, so that writers and journalists can write confidently and provide the freedom of expression that is so important in any democracy.”
This case has attracted a lot of media attention, of course. Here are a few articles:
Holyrood Magazine: Andy Wightman wins defamation case
Times: Andy Wightman wants law reform after defamation victory
BBC: Scottish Green MSP Andy Wightman wins defamation case
Guardian: Scottish Green MSP successfully defends defamation case
STV: Green MSP Andy Wightman cleared in defamation case
Press & Journal: Green MSP Andy Wightman wins £750,000 defamation case brought against him
Scotsman: Greens MSP Andy Wightman wins £750,000 defamation case
National: Green MSP Andy Wightman wins in £750,000 defamation case
And what of Paul O’Donoghue? Well he’s featured in the current edition of Private Eye, although this time not about this case:
UPDATE 5th February 2022: Andy Wightman awarded over £170K expenses in defamation case (here)
15 thoughts on “Andy Wightman successfully defends defamation case”
Yes , excellent news, .
Well done Andy. Justice prevailed after what must have been a long and difficult road.
Very pleased for Andy. I hope he gets expenses which might have the added benefit of trimming Mr O’Donoghues wings
As a professional forester I was interested in the claims over Classindaroch and got in touch with the lead researcher who didn’t just refute the ‘destruction ‘ claims but pointed out that like a number of other species including eg Tawny Owl the Wildcats depend on the big vole populations on the clearfells – which do not occur under closed canopy forest. The managed forest (just over 1% is actually worked annually) provides the combination of shelter, food and seclusion the wildcats need. The work the real scientists are doing is fascinating and important and they deserve real credit in trying to save wildcats in Scotland.
I’m totally not surprised by this news of what the situation in that forest really is Rod. It was hugely disappointing that this man was ever involved in the scheme of potential rewilding here in mid Wales, which the farmers are sadly now totally opposed to.
Excellent news for ‘Andy’ a true ambassador ..His integrity never in question!
Great news! A powerful voice for all that’s good in Scotland!
Ludicrous that this action was raised by someone supposedly from the conservation community!
What is scary about this is that the rich and powerful can bankrupt a defendant before they get to court to defend themselves. This is what our “justice” system has been reduced to by the devastation of legal aid. A political blogger, xxxxx xxxxx, known as “xxxxx xxxxx” is being sued for defamation by a high profile “personality” off the television: he is a full time carer for his wife and has minimal income. This “personality’s” legal team are dragging out the process to try and deplete his crowdfunded pot. It is completely wrong and against natural justice.
As for Andy WIghtman: surely there should be no cost to him from this process and, perhaps, damages paid for the stress and inconvenience caused?
Congratulations to Andy and his legal team, a huge weight off his shoulders I’m sure although in any sane system this would never have got to court.
Loved the Private Eye article – great touch!
Yes, PE has long had the measure of O’Donaghue!
Great news, and congratulations to Andy. The Private Eye article made for interesting reading as I quickly realised that I must have signed the petition by Wildcat Haven. A welcome reminder that I ought to be more careful about the details of things before signing!
Excellent news, let’s hope the expense hearing requires that Andy’s legal costs are recovered from Dr Paul O’Donoghue of Wildcat Haven Enterprises.