08 Nov JULIE BINDEL AND PINK NEWS SETTLE CLAIM OVER “CULT” ARTICLE
Journalist and broadcaster Julie Bindel and LGBT+ website PinkNews have settled a defamation claim over a May 2020 article, with the publisher taking the article down and releasing a statement announcing the settlement.
The subject of the claim, brought against PinkNews and editor-in-chief Benjamin Cohen, was an article published on PinkNews under the headline: “The ‘gender critical’ feminist movement is a cult that grooms, controls and abuses, according to a lesbian who managed to escape”.
The article claimed to be the experiences of a writer, Amy Dyess, who detailed her experiences of being a young lesbian and her involvement with what she termed the “Gender Critical cult”.
The claim was unusual in that the article did not name Bindel.
She argued that she was identifiable from details contained within it, in combination with a Pink News campaign against her, wider information publicly available on Dyess’ Twitter feed, several individuals identifying Bindel at the time the article was published, and the social media reaction at the time (which swiftly identified her), all of which made clear who the piece referred to.
Bindel claimed that she was defamed as a result of allegations that had been made within the article.
The Defendants disputed a number of threshold issues, including meaning, reference and serious harm.
A Court hearing took place in the litigation in July this year, when the Judge, Mr Justice Nicklin, refused to direct the trial of preliminary issues identified by the parties, despite their agreement that this should take place.
This departure from what is now, at least in relation to the issue of meaning, common practice in defamation claims, was, the Judge said, because the issues for determination were factually complicated, and would have required disclosure, witness statements and cross-examination of witnesses at a three-day trial.
Following this refusal by the Court to permit the parties to follow the procedure agreed between them, the claim settled, and PinkNews released the following statement:
“PinkNews and Julie Bindel are pleased to confirm that they have settled the case over the article PinkNews published on 17 May 2020, which chronicled a young American’s account of their recruitment to and time involved with a ‘gender critical cult’. The article made a number of serious allegations of misconduct and PinkNews accepts that if the allegations were understood to refer to Julie, they would be wholly untrue.”
“Julie Bindel accepts that PinkNews published the article without intending to make any such reference to her. PinkNews is sorry for the distress the article caused. It has taken down the article and will not be republishing it. PinkNews has revised its editorial processes.”
“We are all happy that this matter has been resolved.”
While far from typical, this is not the only example of a claim over a publication which did not name the claimant in recent years.
Mainstream media coverage will often allow readers or viewers to identify the subject of an allegation by “jigsaw”, even if their name does not feature.