Out politician Kezia Dugdale has won a defamation battle, after she was sued by a blogger she accused of sending “homophobic tweets.”
The former leader of the Scottish Labour Party faced a lawsuit from blogger Stuart Campbell, who runs Scottish nationalist blog Wings Over Scotland, after she described one of his tweets as “homophobic” in a newspaper article.
Judge rules article was ‘fair comment’ but views were ‘not homophobic’
In a judgement on Wednesday (April 17), Sheriff Nigel Ross ruled that “her article is protected under the principle of fair comment” and that she is not liable to pay damages.
Dugdale had criticised Campbell for a tweet targeting Conservative MSP Oliver Mundell, writing that he “is the sort of public speaker that makes you wish his dad had embraced his homosexuality sooner.”
Mundell’s father, the UK government’s Scottish Secretary David Mundell, came out as gay in 2016.
Writing in the Daily Record newspaper, Dugdale called on Scottish National Party politicians to cut ties with Campbell, accusing him of being “someone who spouts hatred and homophobia towards others.”
The sheriff affirmed that Campbell “does not hold homophobic beliefs or feelings” and had “demonstrated by his conduct over many years that he supports equality for homosexual people.”
The court heard that Campbell has voiced opposition to transgender rights reforms and has repeatedly misgendered trans whistleblower Chelsea Manning, but the sheriff asserted that “transgender rights is a different issue from homosexual rights [and] sexuality has no bearing on gender.”
However, the sheriff added that Dugdale’s article “contained the necessary elements for a defence of fair comment” as she “honestly and rationally formed the view that it treated homosexual people as inferior.”
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He added: “It was based on true facts; the statements complained about were honest; it concerned a matter of public interest, and the comments were fair.”
Campbell had been seeking £25,000 in damages from Dugdale.
However, even if Dugdale had been found liable, the sheriff wrote that Campbell “suffered no quantifiable or other loss as a result of the article. He has suffered no loss of social media following, or influence. The value of any loss would have been quantified at £100.”
Kezia Dugdale ‘delighted’ by ruling
In a statement, Dugdale said: “I am delighted to have won this case and hugely relieved after two long years of it hanging over me.”
She added: “This is an important judgement for the right to free speech and a healthy press.
“This ruling clearly demonstrates that every citizen is entitled to make comments as long as they are fair and reflect honestly held views.”
In a blog post titled “The severed baby,” Campbell claimed: “In almost every sense that the case was brought, we’ve actually won.
“I sought to defend my reputation against a false accusation of homophobia, to establish that I’m not a homophobe, and to prevent anyone from being able to make such claims in future.
“All of those aims have been upheld, in explicit terms, by this judgement.”