Featureflash Photo Agency/shutterstock.com


TV presenter Rachel Riley’s libel claim against Vox Political blogger Michael Sivier reached the High Court last week, with the Countdown star suing Mr Sivier over an online article bearing the headline “Serial abuser Rachel Riley to receive ‘extra protection’ – on grounds that she is receiving abuse”.

Published on 26 January 2019 against the backdrop of a debate about antisemitism and the British Labour Party, Mr Sivier’s article made several allegations about Ms Riley’s behaviour online. In late 2019, the High Court determined its meaning, which included the allegation that Ms Riley had “engaged upon, supported and encouraged a campaign of online abuse and harassment of a 16-year-old girl, conduct which has also incited her followers to make death threats towards her”.

Mr Sivier initially relied on three defences to Ms Riley’s libel claim over the article: truth, honest opinion and publication on matter of public interest. In January 2021, the High Court struck out all these defences following an interim hearing. However, the Court of Appeal subsequently allowed Mr Sivier to continue to advance his public interest defence, saying it should be assessed at trial.

Giving evidence in London last week, Ms Riley told Mrs Justice Steyn that she received significantly increased amounts of abuse online from 9 January 2019.

She said: “That’s when the floodgates opened. I changed my Twitter settings after that week because it was so horrendous.”

Ms Riley added: “It was a whole load of abuse that I was receiving, that Channel 4 was receiving.”

Mr Sivier’s barrister, David Mitchell, accused Ms Riley of double standards in terms of making and receiving allegations, and further argued that she had not provided any evidence of Mr Sivier’s article causing her serious reputational harm.

Ms Riley’s Counsel, John Stables, rejected this argument, pointing to “the gravity of the allegations made against the claimant and the extent of their publication”.

Mrs Justice Steyn’s decision on the claim is expected at a later date.