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Balanced Reporting and John Hemming v Sonia Poulton

On Wednesday 13th July there was a hearing in my case against Sonia Poulton. There have been a lot of technical hearings and it has been back and forth with costs going each way. So far, everyone has made a net loss. For example, as MHN points out, there have been a number of mixed costs orders. The difficulty is Sonia only reports the ones that go her way, but fails to mention things that do not support her account.

Indeed, that is how this started. My issue with her so called, "reporting" is that she only reports one side of the argument. This then results in putting my family at risk and causing distress for my family and myself. In 2015, Esther Baker accused me and several others of rape. But since then, things have moved on - her allegations have been found, "untrue" in the High Court and she has been restrained for life from repeating them. The allegations are now deemed so lacking in credibility they have been removed from my ECRB - meaning I could apply for jobs with children and vulnerable adults. In short my name has been completely cleared. Esther Baker has two other restraining orders against her in favour of other men.

I have always made clear to Sonia that if she would give a balanced account all this could go away.

At the court case on 13 July, she walked towards me outside the court room in the corridor and I calmly said if you were willing to do a balanced report this could all go away. The case has had mediation and also without prejudice negotiations and those have to remain in confidence. However, what I said outside the court room can be repeated. In fact Ms Poulton has already, "reported" on it. She accused me of, "inappropriate & emotional behaviour, which I felt was both threatening and intimidating".

This is false. Sonia walked towards me and I calmly suggested we could settle. She reeled back as if struck and, as so often, claimed I was intimidating her.

It is worth considering how court cases work. There is a final trial, but there are often a number of hearings along the way. Because Sam Smith and I with a few other people do a lot of the legal work our costs are lower than those of Sonia Poulton and Mohammed Butt, but it would not be unreasonable to say each hearing runs a total costs risk of about £30,000.

Now the underlying issues are important to me because it is about the safety of my family against someone who has only put one side of the argument. Anyone offering Sonia financial support needs to think carefully as to whether they wish to fund someone to enable her to report issues in a biased manner ignoring almost all of the confirmed facts - relying on the word of someone who has a track record of making things up for attention

Sonia really should be asked why if it might lead to a settlement of the case won't she do a balanced report.

If the legal case continues it will, of course, be Ms Poulton's "reporting" that is on trial. The "public interest" test that allows reporting of defamatory allegations that are not true (in limited circumstances) requires reporting both sides of the argument and reasonable steps before publication. This is where we have expected one of her publications to be challenged, the rest cannot really justify public interest. She complains that libel law includes retweeting someone else's tweet. That's because it does. Even "Why is Lord McAlpine trending?" can cause a loss in a defamation case - for good reasons.

If you write defamatory articles or tweets you need to be able to defend them in court.


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