Countdown presenter wins opening round of High Court Twitter fight

Countdown presenter Rachel Riley has won the opening round of a legal battle after complaining about being defamed and harassed by the operator of an anonymous Twitter account.

A High Court judge has ordered barrister Daniel Bennett, who “admits responsibility” for the now dormant Harry Tuttle account, to disclose tweets which refer to the 34-year-old television presenter.

Mr Justice Saini said Mr Bennett should also provide tweets to a blogger, David Collier, who has also complained of being defamed and harassed.

The judge said Mr Collier and Ms Riley were Jewish and took “active positions” against anti-Semitism in the UK over recent years.

He said they used Twitter in order to “speak out against this phenomenon” and claimed that the Harry Tuttle account had been used “as a medium to attack a number of Jewish people, by harassing and defaming them”.

The judge made the orders on Wednesday after analysing arguments at a recent High Court hearing.

He ruled that Mr Collier and Ms Riley were entitled to know who had used and had access to the Harry Tuttle account between March 2018 and July 2019, when it became dormant.

The judge added Mr Bennett, who is also Jewish, “admits responsibility” for the account but was “not willing” to say whether he was the author of the tweets.

Actress Tracy Ann Oberman had also complained that the Harry Tuttle account had been used to defame and harass her.

But the judge did not order Mr Bennett to disclose tweets to her, adding the evidence relating to her was “substantially weaker”.

Mr Bennett disputes claims made against him and said the three claimants could not show that the “statements in issue” were “likely to be defamatory”.

Mr Justice Saini said the “broad” legal issue raised had been the scope and nature of a judge’s powers to “assist” potential victims of “civil wrongs”, said to have been committed by the operator of the Harry Tuttle account.

– Ms Riley has, separately, sued a former aide to Jeremy Corbyn for libel. She has taken legal action against Laura Murray over a tweet sent shortly after the ex-Labour leader was egged by a Brexit supporter during a visit to Finsbury Park Mosque, in London, in March 2019. Ms Murray says tweet was not defamatory. A High Court judge has overseen a preliminary hearing.

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