Help Jane Heybroek defend a defamation action

by Jane Heybroek

Help Jane Heybroek defend a defamation action

by Jane Heybroek
Jane Heybroek
Case Owner
I am Jane Heybroek, a Buddhist barrister, and I dedicate my life to peacebuilding and social justice.
on 20th December 2019
pledged of £65,000 stretch target from 2137 pledges
Jane Heybroek
Case Owner
I am Jane Heybroek, a Buddhist barrister, and I dedicate my life to peacebuilding and social justice.

Latest: Aug. 1, 2020

Thank you all! No more donations, please!

Good afternoon

This is to let you know that I am closing the CrowdJustice fund as soon as the platform are able to do so. 

I wanted to let you know something about my "next steps".  …

Read more

On 14th November 2019 I was served with a High Court defamation claim by television presenter Rachel Riley and actress Tracy-Ann Oberman.

The Claimants are seeking damages and costs in respect of a retweet containing a link to an article (which I subsequently deleted).  The article, by blogger Shaun Lawson (which concerned the Claimants’ alleged behaviour towards a teenage Labour supporter on Twitter in January 2019), was re-tweeted by hundreds of other people, but for reasons best known to the Claimants, I am the only person being sued for a retweet.

PLEASE NOTE: it is very important that, if you are aware of the subject-matter of the article, you do not comment about it, as it may leave you exposed to legal action yourself.  

I have been defending the claims (initially pre-action) since May and, thus far, have been paying my solicitors and Counsel through my own savings.  At time of writing I have spent almost £30,000, and, as with all defamation claims, the costs are set to increase significantly.  I am thus launching a fundraiser.  The initial sum I am seeking to raise is £65,000 to cover costs of the likely preliminary hearing(s).  I may have to extend the crowdfund, depending on how things progress.  I would be incredibly grateful for even the smallest token of support.

Funds raised in this crowdfunder shall be used solely for my legal expenses in the case. If I lose the case and damages are awarded to the claimants, I shall be personally liable for those.

Finally, there are a lot of very deserving causes out there, and I know this is an expensive time of year for people, so I fully understand that many people will not be in a position to help. I am launching this crowdfund because some people have very kindly offered to help, and encouraged me to do this, for which I am enormously grateful. Thank you for taking the time to read this, and best wishes for the festive season.

Get updates about this case

Subscribe to receive email updates from the case owner on the latest news about the case.

Recent contributions

Be a promoter

Your share on Facebook could raise £26 for the case

I'll share on Facebook
Update 12

Jane Heybroek

Aug. 1, 2020

Thank you all! No more donations, please!

Good afternoon

This is to let you know that I am closing the CrowdJustice fund as soon as the platform are able to do so. 

I wanted to let you know something about my "next steps".  Any of you who know me will know that this was never about the money.  I determined long ago, even before launching this campaign, that what was gone was gone.  It was always about a matter of principle. 

The other side are making a relatively small contribution to my costs in the scheme of things, but that they make a contribution at all is a symbol of our success in challenging them, particularly in circumstances where there is no confidentiality clause imposed. 

This last point was important to me - not because I want to crow about winning, but because my own experience has taught me that the way in which libel law operates in this country is disproportionately, and unfairly, stacked against the defendant.  In order to create value from what has, at times, been a harrowing experience, I need to be able to talk about the process from my point of view. In my opinion, the Courts have all the tools necessary, through the Civil Procedure Rules, to make the process fairer, and I shall be campaigning for that.  It may also require changes to primary legislation.

In terms of the settlement, once my legal fees and associated costs are paid, as I indicated a while back on Twitter, I will keep 50% of the remainder for myself and donate the other 50% to other worthwhile cases.

I could not have achieved anything without you. You have all been so amazing, not just with your donations, but with your words of encouragement. I will never forget the solidarity you have all shown me.

With my deepest love and respect to you all

Jane x

Update 11

Jane Heybroek

June 24, 2020

Bring me sunshine!

Good afternoon, friends. 

I hope you are able to benefit from this lovely weather, and that you are keeping safe.

I haven't done an update for a while, but that doesn't mean things have ground to a halt.  There has been some very busy work going on behind the scenes and, as I am very much aware that times are difficult, plus I have at last been getting some paid work in, I have been able to keep the funds ticking over from my own resources.

The next steps will require some more help, however. 

I don't know whether I have explained the background to the beginning of this law suit, so if I have, forgive me for repeating it.  Intially I was sent two Letters Before Action in relation to two tweets - both relating to Ms Oberman, in response to someone else's tweet about her. I was away at the time the letters were sent to my Chambers, and, after getting back from holiday, was only working for a few days before I had to go on a residential course for my MA, so didn't see the letters until 3rd May.

Following correspondence, it wasn't until some time in June 2019 that the other side produced a screenshot of a simple retweet of Shaun Lawson's tweet linking to his article.  I searched everywhere and couldn't find it. I must have deleted the retweet at some stage. In the end, to satisfy my own sense of honour (and honesty), I downloaded my tweet history from Twitter and saw that I had, in fact, retweeted it.  But the data doesn't say when it was deleted. 

We have made enquiries - both myself directly and via solicitors - of Twitter to get the data, but they do not provide this sort of data without a court order as it may involve third party data.  As a result I will have no choice but to make an application to the court, to establish when it was deleted, and any other data (impressions, retweets, likes etc) they have. 

I genuinely do not remember when I deleted it or why - as you may have noticed, I tweet rather a lot!  But this information is key. 

I am sorry to have to ask (and again, I insist this is only for my wealthier followers - if you are on a low income you are NOT to contribute, please.) but if anyone finds a spare fiver down the back of their sofa - even a pound! - I would be really grateful. 

I know I am asking a great deal of you, and I am really so, so grateful for every bit of support you have given me over the past months. The messages of support I have received, and knowing you are standing shoulder-to-shoulder with me, have been amazing. Thank you so, so much.

I would welcome a share on Facebook or a tweet if you can. 

Sending you my deepest love and respect. 



Update 10

Jane Heybroek

May 19, 2020

Judgment Delivered in the Meanings Hearing - And It's Positive News!

First of all, I want to thank all of you for your amazing support, not only the financial support you have given me thus far, but also the words of kindness, the retweets of my CrowdJustice fund and the good wishes.

The Judgment in my preliminary “Meanings Hearing” has now been issued.  It's important to understand that this is a hearing uniquely to determine what the words complained of actually mean, whether they constitute statements of fact or opinion, and whether or not they have a “defamatory sting” at common law. This is to set the playing field for the substantive case to come.  

I urge you again not to comment on the content of either of the articles referred-to in this case, or the judgment, lest you find yourselves attracting the attention of the Claimants and their legal team.

This was a hearing we asked for in order to narrow down the Claimants' claims and, in my opinion, we have successfully done so.  The Claimants' view (and note they did not complain of the whole of the 115 paragraphs of the article, but merely to extracts from thirteen of those paragraphs) was that the words they highlighted in the Lawson article  meant:

1.) The Claimants have acted obscenely by subjecting a vulnerable 16 year old girl to serial bullying and abuse.

2.) The Claimants' campaigns of bullying and abuse has encouraged others to follow their lead and resulted in the further harassment and intimidation of the child and the child's family, including the hacking of the child's Twitter account (most probably to delete evidence against the Claimants), the tracking down of her family, people believing that the girl is antisemitic, and to death threats being made against her.

3.) The conduct of the Claimants constituted criminal offences.

4.) The Claimants routinely use their followers to abuse and intimidate others.

The Judge has found the meanings to be as follows:

1.)  The Claimants have acted outrageously by subjecting a vulnerable 16-year-old girl to repeated harassment and abuse.

2.)The Claimants’ actions have 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.

3.) There are grounds for the police conducting an investigation into the Claimants’ conduct.

(4. has gone.)

The first two meanings (1 and 2, above) have been found to be defamatory at common law.  No decision has been made as to whether the third meaning (3 above) is defamatory at common law.

Significantly, the Judge has found that the first meaning (1, above) and the italicised words in the second meaning (2, above) were statements of opinion.  This is a potentially crucial development because statements of opinion are afforded a defence where the basis of the opinion is indicated, and an honest person could have held the opinion on the basis of facts existing at the time.

I am satisfied with the outcome of this hearing as it has removed some of the more hyperbolic contentions being made.  The next step will be for me to file my defence in light of the “real” meanings.  Note that this ruling on meanings is without prejudice to my contention that I am not liable for publication of the article by virtue of my re-tweeting a tweet containing a hyperlink to it.  That issue remains to be determined, either at trial or before.

I am also pleased that, at long last, the background to this case is being revealed through a fair judicial process.   Putting the issues of law to one side, the case is not about antisemitism, either in the Labour Party or more generally.  Rather it is about a commentary on the alleged actions of two celebrities (with massive Twitter followings between them) towards a 16 year old girl.

All of this brings me to the M-word.

For my wealthy supporters: As you will see, there were two hearings instead of one, and three sets of written submissions instead of one, which means that the money raised prior to the hearing is short by approximately £10,000.  I am trying to raise some more from my side, as it were, but I would really appreciate if any of you have a stray fiver down the back of your sofa that you feel you can donate.

These are terrible times, and I hate having to ask for money in this way.  I am adamant that nobody on a low income is allowed to donate, and I would much rather you just shared on social media, please.   

I do, also, feel like we are stepping up to the plate together on this, and it is an important case for so many people, not least "R" (as she is referred to in the Judgment) and her family. 

Much love to you all.


Update 9

Jane Heybroek

April 15, 2020

Life goes on - even during the Covid crisis

Dear Friends

I have been quite quiet about my case of late, as I know everyone has so many more important things to worry about - How long are you going to be in lockdown? How can you do your shopping safely? Will your loved-ones all be safe?  When will you see them again? When will you be able to work?  If you are still working, are you safe at work?

We have been on lockdown here since 13th March. As some of you may be aware, my son had a collapsed lung at the end of January, with complications, and needs an operation - it is not life-threatening but he is still having bouts of extreme pain, tachycardia and breathing difficulties, and given the nature of the virus, we are naturally extremely careful because, were he to catch Covid-19, his life-chances would be extremely compromised.

Those of us who are Labour supporters have also had the recent shock of the report that was leaked at the weekend, which showed the extent to which our efforts were thwarted by members of staff paid for by our subscriptions, and the levels of abuse thrown at people who only ever wanted a Labour government to make people's lives better.  It has been an appalling Easter weekend, and the irony of the same people involved in this case now bandying about threats on Twitter, and in one case suggesting that anyone who has shared that report is a "Jew Hater" has not escaped me, particularly when it is quite clear now where the problem lay, and the cause of it.

Yet still my case progresses.  We have a firm hearing date now for the Meanings Hearing which will be 28th April 2020 - probably best described as the preliminary hearing that will establish the base rules of the battle yet to come. 

So far you have all been so amazing in supporting me, and I am really grateful. However, even though I still put my own money into this fund, I still need to ask my wealthiest friends and followers if they are able to help fund the hearing itself. I absolutely loathe having to do this, now of all times, but the wheels of justice keep on grinding as always. 

I am thankful beyond measure for any contribution you can make at all.  Once again - and this is really important - if you are unwaged or on a low income, you must not donate!

You can help by:

- sharing this page with any friends you might know who may have the financial means to assist

- sharing on Facebook

- sharing on Twitter

Thank you all so very, very much for your continued support.  We will win this. Together. 

Jane x

Update 8

Jane Heybroek

Feb. 28, 2020

We've been warned!

Good evening, fantastic followers and super supporters.

Well, after what seemed like a long time to-ing and fro-ing, we actually now have what is called a "warned date" for the preliminary hearing.  We have been informed by the Court that we are in a warned list for week commencing 23rd March. 

What is a warned list, I hear you cry? It is, effectively, like being on the reserve bench. We are to be ready that week in the eventuality that a listed hearing is adjourned, or goes short, so that we can be slotted in. 

Needless to say, this has presented me with a bit of a quandary.  Many people might not know that barristers are self-employed.  As such, I only get paid for the work I do.  I have no holiday pay, sick pay, etc., and cannot afford to take a week off just on the off-chance that my hearing might possibly happen, so the chances are I might not even get to this hearing.  But my team at Brett Wilson are absolutely brilliant and I know they will do a great job, whether I am there or not. 

The hearing is what is known as a "Meanings Hearing" - to establish which aspects of  the article I retweeted are opinion and, thus, not actionable, and which aspects are statements of fact, which are actionable.  It is useful to narrow the issues down early on, before my formal defence is filed, so everyone knows exactly what we are dealing with. 

In the mean time, I am also having a bit of a to-ing and fro-ing with Twitter who say they cannot tell me anything about my deleted tweet - when it was deleted, how many impressions it got, etc., My understanding is that they probably can interrogate their systems and find that information, but it seems they are not willing to do that without a court order. 

I am so very, very grateful to everyone who has supported me thus far.  I must say again, if you are on a low wage or on benefits, I really do not want you to donate any money, but you can help by:

- Retweeting

- Sharing on Facebook and other social media platforms

- Emailing or speaking to friends and family who you think might want to support me. 

You have all been so amazing.  Your messages of encouragemnt are what keeps me going.  

Thank you all so much, and have a fantastic weekend!

Jane x

Update 7

Jane Heybroek

Feb. 9, 2020

The best laid plans of mice and men...

Dear Friends

I want to give a huge shout out to friends on Twitter who have been retweeting my CrowdJustice page while I have been uncharacteristically quiet on social media.  I have just noticed that the last time I updated all my supporters was 21st January, and I am sorry for not keeping everyone in the loop, but it has been quite a hectic period.  

I was looking forward to Saturday 25th January as the start of a series of public meetings in our local library about the basics of Buddhism, followed by a week of study leave to allow me to finally complete my MA in Reconciliation and Peacebuilding (the final drafting of my dissertation was "to the wire" as everything is in my life, but 6 whole days would be plenty of time, right?).

Disaster struck when my son woke me that morning in extreme pain and a state of absolute panic, unable to breathe. He is 24, and is on the autistic spectrum and suffers from anxiety - probably the main reason I can identify and empathise with the family of the young woman who was the subject of the article, because I have first-hand knowledge of what it is like to struggle as your child suffers with their mental health and have little or no assistance available. 

My son's left lung had completely collapsed and he was blue-lighted to East Surrey Hospital within minutes of the ambulance's arrival. I am eternally grateful to the amazing NHS staff who cared for him with such devotion.

I don't begrudge a moment spent at my son's bedside and, although there were complications to begin with - the tear was bigger than originally thought, and the lung would not reinflate for days - he was eventually well enough to be discharged last Wednesday (although there have been one or two blips since, including a rush back to A & E on Thursday, a probably small hole in his other lung, and me bringing home the lovely gift of a nasty cough that turned into a vomitting bug that laid me out for two days!) It has been a grim time, but we are now out of the woods, although I have aged 10 years in a fortnight!

All the while this was going on, some of my friends were aware that the last thing on my mind was my CrowdJustice campaign, and, quite spontaneously, kept it going for me.  There are a great many of you I need to thank for doing this, and I hope I have done so privately, but if I have somehow missed you, let me take this opportunity to thank you truly from the bottom of my heart for your continued support. 

We still have a long way to go. The legal process is exceedingly long and tedious - and expensive - as so much goes on behind the scenes before even the first preliminary hearings can happen. 

Without you stepping up to the plate with me, I would have to throw in the towel. Contrary to popular belief - as anyone who has read The Secret Barrister will know - we are not all rolling in money.  True, I am not on the breadline either.  But I could not afford to continue to defend this case without your help.  

Once again, I know there are a great many worthy causes out there, and I am grateful for every bit of assistance. Many people will realise, however, why it is necessary to defend myself in this.

You are amazing, every one of you.

Thank you!

Please don't forget - if you cannot help financially, or have already donated, you can help further by:

- Sharing my CrowdJustice fund on social media 

- Emailing any friends or family you believe might be interested in helping.

As you know, I am not just doing this for me. 

Best wishes to you all

Jane x

PS: as to the dissertation, it is still not finished, and I am currently begging the University for leniency and an extension on the basis of extenuating circumstances. I will keep you posted.

Update 6

Jane Heybroek

Jan. 21, 2020

Well, that was a relief!!

I was very worried at the end of last week that my CrowdJustice fund was coming to an end, but fortunately I was emailed to ask if I wanted to continue. As you can imagine, that has come as a huge relief. 

I am so grateful for everything you have already done. Your support has been so awesome.  Thank you so much for being shoulder to shoulder with me on this journey. 

Please remember to share on Facebook, on Twitter, or to email any friends you think might be able to donate. 

Please also remember that I only want people to donate if they can afford to do so.  If you are on a low wage or struggling, please just share instead of donating.

Have a great day!

Jane x

Update 5

Jane Heybroek

Jan. 11, 2020

The Reluctant Crowdfunder!

Dear Friends

I am so, so grateful to every one of you who has contributed and shared my CrowdJustice page.  The solidarity has been overwhelming, and I have received such great messages of support.

Thank you, every single one of you, for stepping up to the plate with me on this.  It is something I never would have thought I would have to do, and knowing you are there with me is a huge comfort, and has been a huge relief.

And - aside from having a busy week back at work after the Christmas break -  I guess I have been a bit quiet about it this week because asking other people for money really is something that goes against everything I believe in.  

I don't come from the usual background of people at the Bar, as anyone who has googled me will probably have spotted by now. I am "Ms. Liz Probert", not "Phyllida Erskine-Brown" - "Martha Costello", not "Caroline Warwick".

I know what it is like to be skint, and I really cannot stress any more strongly that if you are struggling to make ends meet, I do not want you to donate.

But maybe you know people who have a spare bob or two, and might be motivated to support me in this.  So, please, if you feel you are able:
- Retweet 
- Share on Facebook
- Email your friends

I am aiming for a stretch target that will cover the costs a variety of paper-based work and investigations as well as a preliminary hearing. My rather measly pension pot and my savings have already been spent on this. And the reason I set it up as a CrowdJustice fund rather than as a general crowdfunder is so you can be certain of where you money goes - to the legal defence. 

Thank you all, once again, for your kindness, compassion and solidarity.  

Onwards and upwards!

Jane x

Update 4

Jane Heybroek

Jan. 3, 2020

The Usual Caveat Applies....

Good evening, lovely supporters. 

Any of you who follow me regularly on Twitter will know that, as I like to have a glass or two on Friday night, I always put out a warning that nothing I say will make any sense any more. 

So, Friday night, two Old Speckled Hens in and... the usual caveat applies. Except this time, I hope you will understand why this makes sense.

I wanted, again, to thank all of you who have donated thus far.  You are amazing and, as I have said before, there are many, many more worthy causes. 

So why am I doing this? Well, it is because I know what happened. I have watched and, to an extent, been involved in the fall-out that resulted from two very famous people with a large following deciding to act the way they did. 

I cannot go into more detail because I don't want to cause anyone any harm. But I need to defend this for many, many reasons. 

So, once again, thank you for stepping up to the plate with me.  Please circulate to your friends and contacts as much as you can.  

Wishing you a wonderful weekend and, I hope, a Peaceful and Prosperous New Year

Jane x
Update 3

Jane Heybroek

Dec. 31, 2019

Wishing you Peace and Prosperity in 2020

Good morning!

And a Happy New Year to you all!

I am not sure if you are like me, but while I am glad to see the back of 2019, under a Johnson government I am also worried about what 2020 will hold. We are already seeing disturbing signs of a sharp rise in intolerance, hatred and bigotry since the General Election. We have a struggle ahead to protect each other from the worst excesses which are yet to come.

Thank you, all of you, once again for your continued support over the holiday period. Many have been asking about where I am in the process.  The next stage is to file a defence, following which a "meanings hearing" will be listed, which is a preliminary hearing to pinpoint exactly the nature of the claim. 

£65,000 seems an awful lot of money - it is - but that is a rough estimate of what my costs are likely to be through to the meanings hearing itself.  

That is why your support is so valuable, and why I am so very grateful to anyone who can help at all, even if it is only £2. 

I know that many, many people are also struggling to make ends meet too, though, so please help by sharing this CrowdJustice fund on Twitter, Facebook, any other social media you use, and by email if you know someone who might be able to help.

Very best wishes to you all for a Peaceful and Prosperous 2020

Jane x

Update 2

Jane Heybroek

Dec. 28, 2019

2020 rushes towards us like a speeding train!

Dear Supporters and Friends

I hope you all had an lovely Christmas, Hannukah, Winter Solstice - or simply enjoyed the festive season in your own way.  I know that it can be a very difficult time of year for a lot of people, too, so I expect many of you are glad it is over and looking forward to a New Year, and the nights getting shorter into the spring.

I want to thank everyone who has contributed to this CrowdJustice fund thus far. I really am very grateful, and quite overwhelmed by the level of support I have received. For those of you who have donated via Twitter, I hope I have managed to thank you personally there, too.

Secondly - and this is important to me - if you are struggling on minimum wage, zero hours contacts or benefits, please DO NOT donate.  It goes against everything I believe in to have to do this crowdfund at all, but - as many of you will know - it is also very important that this case is defended. 

If you have already donated - or if you cannot afford to donate, you can still help immensely by:
  • Sharing on Social Media
  • Emailing friends and contacts
  • Speaking to people you know who might be interested in helping

Wishing you all a Peaceful and Prosperous 2020!

Jane x

Update 1

Jane Heybroek

Dec. 23, 2019

Such amazing support! Thank you!

Dear Friends,

I cannot believe I have woken up to over £10,400 pledged in the first 60 hours of this campaign.  You are all so amazing!

Most of you already know why it is so very important that I "step up to the plate" in this. Thank you, each and every one of you, for stepping up with me. And thank you for all your messages of support.  Together, we can do this. 

As you can see, we still have a way to go yet, so to all my supporters, I have a favour to ask you. Please:

  • Talk to your friends and family
  • Share the link on social media
  • Think of five people you could email who might be able to help
But most of all - have a very Merry Christmas! I cannot find the words to express how grateful I am.

Jane x

Get updates about this case

Subscribe to receive email updates from the case owner on the latest news about the case.

    There are no public comments on this case page.