A Plebgate guide: Never go to law

From Eugene Terre'Blanche to Botham and Lamb vs Imran Khan, recent legal history is littered with disastrous defamation actions. So whatever possessed Andrew Mitchell to go after The Sun for libel over Plebgate?

Old Rumpole's never out of pocket
Robin Mitchinson
On 2 December 2014 04:51

‘Never go to law’, was the advice of my old law tutor, ‘The winner is out-of-pocket and the loser is irretrievably ruined!’ And nowhere does this apply with greater force than to defamation actions. They are a licence to transfer large quantities of wonga to m’ learned friends.

Few will now remember the vastly entertaining case of Jani Allan, the Johannesburg Sunday Times journalist, who was alleged by Channel 4 to have had an affair with Eugene Terre’Blanche, leader of the extremist AWB party.

There was much titillating evidence about her having had a bit of extracurricular with him at the Voortrekker Monument (actually it was the Paardekraal Monument in Krugersdorp, far less fun than discussing Africa on the steps of the Afrikaner holy of holies with a ‘pig in a safari suit’ as the fragrant Ms Allan called him).

There was detailed evidence about the holes in Terre’Blanche’s underpants, which added to the gaiety of several nations.

With George Carmon on one side and Peter Carter-Ruck on the other this was going to be the clash of the titans and very, very expensive. Jani had made lots of money from her journalistic notoriety. She lost the case and all the money.

When Botham and Lamb left the cricket field to sue Imran Khan for libel they were bowled out for £500,000, and had to join the rubber-chicken circuit to pay the costs.

So whatever possessed Andrew Mitchell to go after The Sun for libel? Up to that point he had effectively won the Battle of Plebgate. One copper had been jailed, four were sacked, and two resigned. There was common acceptance that he had been stitched-up by the Met.

Having been our best Minister for Foreign Embezzlement, he has now ruled himself out of any political resurrection.

The real winner was Political Correctness. The offending word was not ‘f*****g, but ‘pleb’. It is absolutely not done to use belittling language to sensitive souls like the Old Bill, even if true. Foul language? No worries, just like the case of the footballer who was done for calling another player ‘a f*****g black c**t’, not because of the foul language but because of ‘black’ – which happened to be the only true word in his rant.

But as is well-known, footballers are anti-racist Guardianistas who will stamp on any expression of racism unless made about a white player, as when they threatened to refuse to pay the fee of the entertainer at their annual bash for using the word ‘n**ger. The offender was Reginald D Hunter, the brilliant American who is very black.

Now we have the David Mellor panto. Well might the public say ‘who he?’  He was chiefly famous for toe-sucking but not much else besides.

Being somewhat tired and emotional he used a bit of colourful language to express his disapproval of his taxi driver’s performance. As we know the Black Cab fraternity are shrinking violets unaccustomed to even the occasional ‘oh bother’, never mind a bit of effing and blinding. The meeja, which also thoroughly disapproves of anything remotely resembling profanity, has been squeezing the last drop of juice out of this non-story for days.

As a bonus, Mellor was with his titled squeeze, Lady Chobham, so Grub Street could add ‘toff’ to ‘snob’!

As for Lady Thornbird and the white van man, she richly deserved her fate. For using the idiot’s current plaything, Twitter.

Robin Mitchinson is a Contributing Editor to The Commentator. A former barrister, living in the Isle of Man, he is an international public management specialist with almost two decades of experience in institutional development, decentralisation and democratisation processes. He has advised governments and major international institutions across the world

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