AN ACTOR has published a letter he received by lawyers acting on behalf of Joanna Cherry QC after the MP disputed reports of legal action against him.
David Paisley shared screenshots of a letter he received after posting on social media about the MP for Edinburgh South West.
It follows a story in the Herald on Sunday which revealed that Mr Paisley was asked to pay £2,000 in legal fees and donate £500 to charity after he questioned Ms Cherry’s support of a fundraiser on Twitter.
Ms Cherry criticised the initial story and said there was “no legal action”.
Joanna Cherry QC has claimed that “there is no legal action”.
This is dishonest, I have no option but to share these legal threats in the public interest.
Elected representatives should not mislead the public, or issue legal threats to silence those asking legitimate questions. pic.twitter.com/LzddqnJa34
— David Paisley (@DavidPaisley) February 21, 2021
One of the letters, sent on December 3, 2020 by law firm Brodies LLP, states: “We are instructed by Joanna Cherry QC MP.”
It describes a tweet posted by Mr Paisley which questioned Ms Cherry’s financial support of a fellow lawyer’s crowdfunding campaign and continues: “Our client is an outspoken and enthusiastic supporter of equality. Our client welcomes debate around these issues.”
It adds: “Your tweet has caused harm to our client and continues to do so. Our client requires you to take action to remedy the harm caused by your tweet. Our client requires you to remove the tweet, to publicly apologise to Ms Cherry QC MP, and to make a donation of £500 to a charity of our client’s choice.
“Our client has additionally incurred legal fees of £2,000 (excl. VAT), which have necessarily been incurred in responding to your defamatory tweet. Our client requires you to pay these costs.
“If this action is taken, our client does not consider it necessary to take further action regarding your defamatory tweet. Ms Cherry QC MP reserves her position in relation to any action that she wishes to take if you do not remedy the harm caused by your tweet.”
Mr Paisley told the Herald: “I think it’s improper for an elected representative to mislead the public. I think it is very misleading to suggest that Joanna hasn’t taken legal action.
“I’ve received several letters from her lawyer and have been asked for money from her.
“I have had to engage a lawyer myself. That counts as legal action by most people’s definition. It would be untrue to say she has not engaged legal action.”
Ms Cherry claimed the Herald on Sunday report implied that she had taken court action.
Following publication of the story, she tweeted: “I have not lodged a defamation action against anyone. However like anyone else I am entitled to call out lies about me particularly when they endanger my personal safety and that of my loved ones.”
Defamatory claims about my position on trans rights by the likes of the actor in question and others have effectively put a target on my back and led to online abuse and threats of sexual violence which are now the subject of criminal charges
— Joanna Cherry QC (@joannaccherry) February 21, 2021
In another tweet, the MP added: “Defamatory claims about my position on trans rights by the likes of the actor in question and others have effectively put a target on my back and led to online abuse and threats of sexual violence which are now the subject of criminal charges.”
Mr Paisley said the MP’s denial around her legal action was “detracting from the real issue.”
He added: “This takes away from the point I am making – that these threats are being used to silence concerns, questions or criticisms.
“I have never said anything untruthful about Joanna Cherry. I asked a question about why she had funded a campaign, which I think was a legitimate question, and I still do not have an answer to that.”
Lawyer Jolyon Maugham, director at the Good Law Project, said that defamation law is being used more often as a method for silencing people.
Mr Maugham has worked with Ms Cherry in the past on the legal challenge over Boris Johnson’s prorogation of Parliament and his organisation is currently taking the Conservative Government to court over the awarding of Covid-related contracts to companies or individuals connected to Conservative MPs and officials.
On social media he said: “Because defending defamation proceedings is so expensive, a well-funded claimant can bully critics into silence and, by marking the threats ‘confidential’, suppress transparency over the fact they are doing so. This feels profoundly wrong to me.”
He added: “So many defamation legal threats are marked ‘private and confidential’ to limit transparency over who is using the law to curtail (fair or unfair) criticism. The legal advice we have received is that there is very little risk in publishing those threats.
“We are aware of cases of (e.g.) campaigners against sexual violence being bullied into silence, and wrongly forced to apologise, by the threat of defamation proceedings.
“We at @GoodLawProject intend to back those campaigners in order to discourage those threats.”
As previously reported, charity Scottish PEN have supported Mr Paisley and say the legal action by Ms Cherry in this case is “disproportionate and troubling”.
The organisation has published a statement on his case this morning, confirming its support and concerns.