Scientology Crime Syndicate

Subject: CLAMS CHOWDERED in u.k. libel case.
From: "Dave Bird --- ARS HakeMonger ,,,,><_'>.,,,<_\",,,,"
Date: Tue, 8 Jun 1999 17:59:02 +0100

Hiyas. Well, another fine day for cracking clams, Grommit. Unfortunately Roland had a rush on at work and could not take the day off. Jens was also stuck in Paris. So I continued down the underground to Victoria then across to Temple, which is by the embankment running along the north side of the river. Twenty yards up a side-street north brings us to The Strand which runs parallel with it, along the top of the valley slope. And there stands the main High Court building (NB this is not the same place as the central criminal court).

Or maybe I should start in a different place. Back in 1996 while on the Exec of the National Council for Civil Liberties, I passed the word on about a law-case which I felt reflected a massive attack on rights: a couple called Richard and Bonnie Woods were fighting a libel case against Co$, resisting attempts to silence them by distributing defamatory leaflets around their neighbourhood.

Now I had no power of decision over this. Once it was on the desk for consideration, it stood or fell by its merits like any other case. It got accepted, and passed to one of the firms of solicitors who had volunteered to do some pro bono cases, Allen and Overy. This is not just any firm of solicitors. It is a 400 partner job. It is, I learned today, the biggest firm globally -- including America -- with a turnover of UK#365 million per year, or a million a day. Their offices by St Pauls, just north of the court, are 1 to 35 or whatever of that street: one side of it. They recruits maybe one associate a year for which they have 3 or 400 applications (roughly speaking all the top law graduates from our top two universities), and pick from them the one who shows exceptional talent and ability. Not a group to be trifled with. And, from the people I met today, also pretty nice guys.

Well, the clams footled on and tried to swamp the plaintiffs with lengthy motions. The defence just chucked another twenty paralegals onto replying and rolled inexorably on. And then it came to court. Friday might I got a call from Bonnie that they were conceding. We had planned on a long fight, 20 days in court, and in particular having a demo and lunch for Gerry Armstrong and Bob Minton when they came over as witnesses; this was not to be. We just revised our plans to roll up who we could on Tuesday morning.

I was there about 09:30 and met the Woods' pastor outside. Martin and Damian rolled up around ten, Peter Lucey who is back briefly from working overseas, Hartley, and Leslie from the internet crowd. There were probably 12 to 15 other family and supporters for Bonnie and Richard.

There were a lot of press looking for a case in the same building where the boxer Chris Eubanks is being sued by an opponent he injured in the ring. About 10:05 the cameras flocked for a look at the arrival of a (?Eubanks') family group. Also a bent MP called Jonathon Aitken was to be sentenced for perjury today elsewhere, at the central criminal court. One guy from a photo-agency wanted to be sure he got shots of the Woods when they arrived.

Probably around 10:20 Bonnie rolled up in a very fetching blue and white dress, with Richard Woods in a dark suit. Cameras flocked round and reporters did brief quotes as she came in. Entering the great hall through the security check, we were told it was in court #13 west wing, i.e. upstairs on the left side of the hall. We were all stood in the corridor outside the courtroom -- one 20 minute hearing to go before ours. Graeme Wilson and another clam plus their counsel rolled up, but no other supporters. I spoke briefly to a woman reporter from The Times (The, i.e. of London UK), who was puzzled there were not more press around.

Then into court, behind rows rather like school desks at the back. All rise, here come de judge. The plaintiff's counsel -- the lead attorney who does the talking -- stood up at the lefthand lectern. Confusingly, the plaintiffs table with the Woods' and six (no joking!) other A&O people is at the right front. He took five or ten minutes to lay out the facts and indicate that the defendant had conceded. The plaintiff's counsel stood up and said a brief paragraph that he agreed, they had misrepresented Bonnie's motives for criticising them, they apologised and would not repeat the libel. A permanent injunction against doing so was agreed.

And that was it. Bonnie Woods, who has discharged her debts to her creditors, gets UK#50000 of the clams' money tax free. They will be going on a few weeks' holiday soon. Plus the clams pay a considerable amount in court costs and plaintiff's cost of counsel (which was no win no fee; earlier costs are pro bono like the Erlich case).

So out of the courtroom, and the press and cameras all turned up to cover. In the corridor outside I borrowed from a reporter a Milne-ish statement from Co$ making it seem they had let her off; I couldn't help over-hearing him describe rthe statement to his colleage as "a complete load of bollocks." While the Aitken case is potential front page, I think this will be a couple of pages in with 1/2 or 1/4 and A3 page with pictures, in most major newspapers. "Meridian TV" i.e. south coast commercial TV region, which covers Brighton/East Grinstead and Poole, filmed. There should be lots in the Times, because there were about five of them comparing notes.

Then over the road to the wine bar on the corner of Essex St: champagne, and sandwich buffet, courtesy of Allen & Overy. Much celebration went on. The sky had started clear, and it remained a fine bright day so we stayed at the outside tables and sprawled out into the street.

I got back into Birmingham by about 16:30. The 1700 Radio news carried resumed and successful peace talks in number one spot, Aitken sentenced to 18 months. Nothing about Eubanks, but I suspect that may be in court 5-10 days before a verdict. Someone from the House of Lords rang up to congratulate us on our success.

One or two people should, I hope, be buying the UK papers and scanning in any coverage. Also someone is videotaping the Meridian 18:00 TV news in the south coast area. More follows....

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