Entertainment

Rachel Riley waits for ruling on libel damages fight with former Corbyn aide

Ms Riley, a numbers expert on the Channel 4 show Countdown, sued Laura Murray over a tweet posted more than two years ago.

Television presenter Rachel Riley is waiting to hear whether she has won a damages fight after suing a former aide to Jeremy Corbyn for libel.

Ms Riley, 35, a numbers expert on the Channel 4 show Countdown, sued Laura Murray, who is in her early 30s, over a tweet posted more than two years ago.

A judge oversaw the High Court case, in London, in May and is scheduled to deliver a ruling on Monday.

Mr Justice Nicklin heard how both women posted tweets after Mr Corbyn, who was then Labour leader, was hit with an egg while visiting a mosque in March 2019.

Laura Murray arrives at the Royal Courts of Justice
Laura Murray arrives at the Royal Courts of Justice (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Ms Murray tweeted in response to a tweet by the television presenter.

Ms Riley initially posted a screenshot of a January 2019 tweet by Guardian columnist Owen Jones, about an attack on former British National Party leader Nick Griffin, which said: “I think sound life advice is, if you don’t want eggs thrown at you, don’t be a Nazi.”

She added “Good advice”, with emojis of a red rose and an egg.

Later, Ms Murray tweeted: “Today Jeremy Corbyn went to his local mosque for visit My Mosque Day, and was attacked by a Brexiteer. Rachel Riley tweets that Corbyn deserves to be violently attacked because he is a Nazi. This woman is as dangerous as she is stupid. Nobody should engage with her. Ever.”

Ms Riley said she was being sarcastic in her tweet, did not call Mr Corbyn a Nazi, and told the judge that Ms Murray’s tweet caused serious harm to her reputation.

Ms Murray was stakeholder manager in Mr Corbyn’s office when he was Labour leader, and went on to be the party’s head of complaints, before going into teaching.

She argued that what she tweeted was true and reflected her honestly held opinions.

Mr Justice Nicklin ruled at an earlier hearing that Ms Murray’s tweet was defamatory.

Riley libel ruling
Rachel Riley with Countdown co-stars Anne Robinson and Susie Dent (Rachel Joseph/Channel 4/PA)

He concluded that the tweet meant Ms Riley had “publicly stated” Mr Corbyn had been attacked when visiting a mosque; that he “deserved to be violently attacked”; by doing so she had shown herself to be a “dangerous and stupid person” who “risked inciting unlawful violence”; and that people should not “engage with her”.

He was asked to consider whether serious harm had been caused to Ms Riley’s reputation, and whether Ms Murray had a defence of truth, honest opinion, or public interest.

Ms Riley, who studied mathematics at Oxford University and is currently on maternity leave from Countdown after giving birth in November, told the judge she was Jewish and had a “hatred of anti-Semitism”.

She said she spoke out against anti-Semitism and thought the Corbyn-led Labour Party was “fostering anti-Semitism”.

Ms Murray told the judge that her job had involved her working with the Jewish community to “try to find solutions to the problem of anti-Semitism which was becoming evident within parts of the Labour Party membership”.

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