Jo Swinson wins court case to get leaflet about her banned

PUBLISHED: 09:44 27 November 2019 | UPDATED: 15:00 27 November 2019

Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson during a visit to Dunkertons Cider Company. Photograph: Aaron Chown/PA Wire.

Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson during a visit to Dunkertons Cider Company. Photograph: Aaron Chown/PA Wire.

Jo Swinson has won a court case stopping the SNP distributing a leaflet which it claimed exposed the 'hypocrisy' of the Lib Dem leader.

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The SNP's leaflet, produced for rival in East Dunbartonshire Amy Callaghan, claimed that £14,000 donation from a "fracking company".

But lawyers acting on behalf of the Lib Dem leader said the claim was defamatory and wanted to stop Royal Mail distributing the leaflet.

Speaking in the Court of Session judge Lord Pentland backed Swinson on the matter.

He said: "In my view the petitioner has shown she has a prima facie case that the statement is defamatory."

It had been claimed that Swinson was a "hypocrite" because had received money from Warwick Energy, which held licenses for fracking, but Swinson's lawyers argued that because the donation had been made in a personal capacity by the director of the company and it had gone to Swinson's constituency office rather than herself it was not the same.

QC Roddy Dunlop for Swinson also argued that Warwick Energy could not be described as a "fracking company" because it does not participate in the activity.

He said: "It does have a fracking licence but it doesn't engage in shale gas fracking", before adding that 80% of its output came from renewable energy.

Dunlop told the court: "We are in the midst of a general election. It is unlawful for there to be made a false statement of fact in relation to the personal character or conduct of a character.

"Mr Petterson made the donation in a personal capacity. It is not correct to say that the company is a fracking company - it holds licences for fracking but it is not engaged in it. Most of its activities come from renewable sources.

"Ms Swinson also did not receive the money. It was her constituency office.

"Given that, the statement that she is a hypocrite is not only inaccurate - it is defamatory at common law."

The SNP's lawyer Jonathan Mitchell QC had argued that the "hypocrite" remark was justified given Swinson's comments about the environment.

The Scottish nationalists are considering launching an appeal as a matter of "urgency" after the judge banned the leaflet, and ordered them to pay for Swinson's legal costs.

In recent weeks the Lib Dems themselves have come under pressure for misleading bar graphs in leaflets and letters, and material designed to look like local newspapers, independent of the party.

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