pollitician : Andrew Bridgen libelled to 'devastating extent' by Matt Hancock, High Court told

pollitician : Andrew Bridgen libelled to 'devastating extent' by Matt Hancock, High Court told
pollitician : Andrew Bridgen libelled to 'devastating extent' by Matt Hancock, High Court told

Wednesday 12 June 2024 10:48 PM

newsonline - Matt Hancock libelled parliamentary candidate Andrew Bridgen to a "devastating extent" when he accused him of antisemitism, the High Court has heard.

Mr Bridgen is suing the former health secretary after Mr Hancock criticised his claim the vaccine rollout was "the biggest crime against humanity since the Holocaust".

Mr Hancock described the comment as "disgusting and dangerous" and "antisemitic", which prompted Mr Bridgen to take legal action "to clear his name".

At a hearing on Wednesday, Christopher Newman, representing Mr Bridgen, said the allegation reduced his client in the eyes of the public to a "devastating extent".

"We say that the gravity of what was said, even on the defendant's meaning, was very serious indeed," he said.

"A libel about antisemitism is a particularly serious libel."

He continued: "We live in a society where racism is not just undesirable, it is legislated to be illegal… and antisemitism as a very specific form of racism, just as bad as any other form of racism."

Mrs Justice Collins Rice was asked to decide several preliminary issues in the case, including whether Mr Hancock's post was a statement of fact or opinion.

Mr Hancock had shared a video on 11 January 2023 of him asking Prime Minister Rishi Sunak a question in the House of Commons.

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It was posted with the words: "The disgusting and dangerous antisemitic, anti-vax, anti-scientific conspiracy theories spouted by a sitting MP this morning are unacceptable and have absolutely no place in our society."

This came hours after Mr Bridgen shared a link to an article "concerning data about deaths and other adverse reactions linked to Covid vaccines" and stated: "As one consultant cardiologist said to me, this is the biggest crime against humanity since the Holocaust."

While Mr Newman said Mr Hancock's post meant Mr Bridgen "is an antisemite", lawyers for the former health secretary said it meant Mr Bridgen had "disseminated views that were antisemitic in nature".

Read more:
Bridgen told to 'remedy deficiencies' in claim
Bridgen kicked out of Tory party

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In written submissions, Aidan Eardley KC, for Mr Hancock, said only someone "avid for scandal" would believe the post was about Mr Bridgen's "general character or belief system".

He added: "The political context of the statement is highly significant.

"The reasonable reader will have appreciated that it was one MP criticising a statement made by another MP on a matter of political controversy."

Mr Bridgen, who is standing as an independent candidate in the North West Leicestershire constituency, was not present at the hearing, with Mr Newman telling the court he was "on the campaign trail".

Mr Hancock, who has stepped down as an MP, also did not attend.

Mrs Justice Collins Rice will hand down her judgment in writing at a later date.

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