Time has run out for Interpal, to serve defamation proceedings which they threatened against UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI) last August.
Interpal’s solicitors, Carter-Ruck, sent a letter of claim to UKLFI and two of its directors on 16 August 2019, demanding that two articles be removed from UKLFI’s website, social media and Internet search engines. They also insisted that UKLFI publish a full apology on its website and Facebook, agree to a statement in open court, undertake not to repeat the allegations or similar claims, and pay compensation and costs.
UKLFI did not agree to any of Interpal’s demands, and its solicitors, BLM, sent back a detailed defence of its position in a letter running to 24 pages on 15 November 2019.
Amongst other defences, UKLFI relied on statutory qualified privilege under section 15 of the Defamation Act 1996, which covers fair and accurate extracts from or summaries of matter issued for the information of the public by governments – in this case, the designations of Interpal as a terrorist organisation by the USA, Canada, Australia and Israel, and official statements accompanying them.
Interpal’s Trustees subsequently asked UKLFI to publish theirreply in accordance with that section, which UKLFI did on 21 February 2020. Interpal’s Trustees denied any involvement in or support for terrorism.
Carter-Ruck informed UKLFI’s solicitors that four of the five Trustees would not pursue their claims any further, but the other Trustee maintained his demands for removal of the allegations against him in UKLFI’s article of 25 February 2019, an apology, a statement in open court, an undertaking not to repeat the allegations, compensation and costs.
Carter-Ruck also raised an additional claim on behalf of this Trustee of breach of the GDPR on the ground that the article constituted a processing of personal data that was not permitted under any of the exceptions.
A Claim Form was issued in the High Court on behalf of this Trustee against UKLFI and one of its directors on 25 February 2020, the last possible day of the one-year limitation period for commencing a claim for defamation in respect of the first article.
Carter-Ruck did not serve the Claim Form and did not inform UKLFI about it, but the record of its filing can be (and was) found by searching on the Court Register. They had four months to serve it before it expired on 25 June 2020, but they did not do so.
The Board of Deputies, Jerusalem Post, Sunday Express, Daily Mail and Jewish Chronicle have previously conceded claims by Interpal that allegations that it is linked to Hamas were false and defamatory. However, the BBC defended its superbly-researched documentary, “Faith, Hate and Charity”, whose transcript is stillavailable on the BBC’s website.
We are very grateful to the many people who have helped us with this case, including our solicitors Tim Smith and Dominic Ward of BLM, counsel Andrew Caldecott QC and Ben Gallop of 5RB, Gavi Mairone and Nechama Aloni of MM-Law, Tel Aviv, Mark Lewis of Patron Law, documentary-maker John Ware, our insurers, and others who cannot be named.