Rachel Riley and Tracy-Ann Oberman win first round of legal battle

Rachel Riley and Tracy-Ann Oberman win first round of anti-Semitism battle with barrister who accused them of targeting Labour-supporting 16-year-old girl

  • Barrister Jane Heybroek shared a link on Twitter to a blog published in January last year alleging Ms Riley and Ms Oberman had harassed the girl online
  • At the High Court this morning, Mr Justice Jay made a preliminary ruling that the blog contained defamatory comments 
  • Ms Riley and Ms Oberman have repeatedly clashed with Labour supporters over the party’s handling of anti-Semitism allegations   

Countdown star Rachel Riley and actress Tracy-Ann Oberman have won the first round of a High Court libel battle against a barrister after a judge ruled a blog link she shared on social media ‘could be considered defamatory.’

Ms Riley and Ms Oberman are suing barrister Jane Heybroek after she shared a link on Twitter to a blog published in January last year.

At the High Court this morning, Mr Justice Jay made a preliminary ruling that the blog, alleging Ms Riley and Ms Oberman had harassed a 16-year-old Labour supporter in a online debate, could be considered defamatory. 

The blog alleged that Ms Riley’s and Ms Oberman’s online comments had encouraged others ‘leading to further harassment and abuse of the child and the child’s family, including the hacking of the child’s Twitter account, the tracking down of her family, people believing that the girl is anti-Semitic, and to death threats being made against her, believing that the girl is anti-Semitic, and to death threats being made against her.’ 

In his conclusion Mr Justice Jay said the above allegations were defamatory at common law. 

Countdown star Rachel Riley (pictured) and actress Tracy-Ann Oberman have won the first round of a High Court libel battle against barrister Jane Heybroek

Ms Riley and Ms Oberman have repeatedly clashed with Labour supporters, particularly over former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s handling of anti-Semitism allegations within his party’s ranks.     

In Tuesday’s preliminary ruling Mr Justice Jay said: ‘On 18th January 2019 Mr Shaun Lawson published an article on Medium.com headlined: ‘Beneath Contempt: How Tracy Ann Oberman and Rachel Riley harassed, dogpiled and slandered a 16-year-old child and her father’ (‘the Lawson article’). This is a lengthy piece which contains numerous hyperlinks to other articles and materials on which the Defendant places some reliance as valuable context. 

‘On the same day, Mr Lawson sent a Tweet from his Twitter account with an embedded hyperlink to the Lawson article, no doubt with the intention of securing a wider dissemination. This in turn was retweeted by the Defendant, also on the same day, with the same hyperlink facility.’

Ms Riley and Ms Oberman (pictured) have repeatedly clashed with Labour supporters, particularly over former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s handling of anti-Semitism allegations within his party’s ranks

The two celebrities are claiming they had been accused of ‘subjecting a vulnerable 16-year-old girl to repeated harassment and abuse’.   

In his ruling the judge concluded the words in the article were ‘sufficiently serious’ that the reputations of Ms Oberman and Ms Riley ‘will have been lowered in the eyes of the likely readership’.

Ms Heybroek, who has regularly tweeted in support of Jeremy Corbyn is fighting the libel action and has crowdfunded more than £30,000 in an attempt to cover her legal fees.  

The libel claim will now move forward to a potential trial. 

At the High Court this morning, Mr Justice Jay made a preliminary ruling that the blog, alleging Ms Riley and Ms Oberman had harassed a 16-year-old Labour supporter in a online debate, could be considered defamatory

Shortly after the blog was published last year the TV stars’ lawyer Mark Lewis said the duo were preparing to sue up to 70 Twitter users for alleged libel and harassment.   

Ms Riley has already won two preliminary battles over claims she was libelled online while fighting anti-Semitism. 

She has brought a third case against a former staffer for Jeremy Corbyn, Laura Murray, over an online spat after the former Labour leader was hit with an egg in March 2019.   

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