UK high court junks high-profile defamation case against former Tory MP

Judge slams claimant's "exorbitant approach" to litigation, questions motives behind suit

UK high court junks high-profile defamation case against former Tory MP

A high court judge of England and Wales has not only binned a controversial defamation case filed against former Conservative MP Charlotte Leslie; he has also taken the time to criticise the claimant’s “exorbitant approach” to litigation and question his motives for bringing the case.

British conservative-party donor and businessman-philanthropist Mohamed Amersi sued Leslie and the Conservative Middle East Council (CMEC) she used to direct for defamation. Amersi claimed Leslie circulated documents to certain high-profile individuals from the end of 2020 to January 2021 which seriously harmed his reputation. Individuals who received Leslie’s memos included former lord chancellor David Lidington.

High court judge Matthew Nicklin of the high court media and communications list – which tries cases of defamation, data privacy breaches and personal data misuse, and publication-caused harassment in England and Wales – called Amersi’s prospects of proving he had been defamed by Leslie and CMEC “fanciful” and Amersi’s allegation that he had suffered serious harm from the former MP’s circulated memos, “speculative and optimistic guesswork”.

While Amersi pointed out 22 imputations made against him in Leslie’s memos, the judge focused on the impact the memos made on those who received it “because it is the actual impact that these defamatory imputations had on the publishees that matters”.

None of the recipients of Leslie’s memos gave Amersi a witness statement, instead preferring to give them to the defendants.

The judge found that Amersi failed to show his reputation had suffered serious harm because of the memos circulated. Considering the witness statements on hand, Nicklin concluded that the recipients of Leslie’s memos had drawn their own conclusions about Amersi either before ever having read the defamatory documents in question or from other sources, such as then-circulating newspaper articles casting doubt on Amersi’s background and business relations.

The 108-page judgment also took the time to criticise Amersi’s approach to litigating, pointing out that his amendment application and witness statements were packed with “irrelevant material” the judge could not find any use for.

“Other than, perhaps, as an effort to embarrass the Conservative Party, I fail to understand why the claimant has included this evidence in his witness statement,” Nicklin said. The judge observed that Amersi’s witness statement echoed some of the statements he had issued to media to defend himself against attacks or suggest problems with Leslie and CMEC.

“Witness statements in litigation are not to be used for settling scores or advancing some wider agenda,” Nicklin said.

Finally, the judge questioned Amersi’s motives in bringing the defamation case against Leslie and CMEC, especially considering two points of conduct from the claimant:

  • Amersi’s “exorbitant approach to the litigation” – including raising multiple causes of action that did not add “any tangible benefit” to the case and a steadfast refusal to disclose his incurred costs to the court while spilling these figures to journalists, and
  • Amersi’s delay in starting defamation proceedings, which Nicklin described as “inconsistent with a desire to seek prompt vindication”.

The facts surrounding the case suggested to Nicklin that Amersi was treating the defamation action as an “opportunity … to seek to embarrass (and possibly to punish) the Conservative Party for … having wronged him”.

Nicklin highlighted an Observer article from last year in which Amersi complained that he was excluded from elite Conservative Party events, the Guardian reported.

“That is not a legitimate purpose for civil proceedings for defamation,” Nicklin concluded.

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