I was saddened to learn, from the London Stock Exchange ,of the resignation from the board of Rangers International Football Club (RIFC) of Mr James Easdale.
The short statement contained the truth, and nothing but the truth.
James Easdale was rather unique around the Board room table in RIFC conclaves in that he wasn’t there for personal remuneration.
That had been my settled view for some time, so I was surprised to receive a missive from his legal representatives alleging my reportage was creating a different, more damaging, impression.
It is over a year ago, I was traveling south to Wexford for the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis , when I received the following communication, from the eminent and highly respected Professor Peter Watson, then of Levy and McRae.
I understand that the good professor has since parted company with that law firm just as his client has departed the Blue Room.
You will note the date of the communication and it was the same day, that the club issued this statement.
I rather suspect that the “Irish-based internet blog” might be referring to me.
Sources informed me that there was something of a crisis meeting earlier that day and on the agenda was my reporting.
The advice from a PR professional was that no one was to do anything off their own bat.
Here is the email:
From: “Professor Peter Watson, Levy & McRae” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 7 Feb 2014 17:08
Subject: LETTER BEFORE ACTION
LETTER BEFORE ACTION
(1) DEFAMATION OF ALEXANDER & JAMES EASDALE
(2) CRIMINAL OFFENCE : The Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act 2012
We act on behalf of Alexander and James Easdale. We are instructed in relation to various online networking sites and in particular posts and images which are seriously defamatory of both. These posts are false, untrue and published with the intent of damaging our clients. The publication, quite apart from giving rise to a claim for damages for defamation, also constitute a criminal act. We will deal with these matters in turn below.
The law in this matter is quite clear. You are urged to take legal advice as a matter of urgency. Your failure to respond to the letter and to take immediate steps to deal with this intimation of claim will be founded upon.
Defamation is a civil wrong, which grounds an action for damages, or an interdict against publication or repetition. The principal function of the law of defamation is to protect reputation. Defamation therefore concerns injuries to character. Lord Cooper defined defamation in these terms:
“the wrong or delict which is committed when a person makes an injurious and false imputation, conveyed by words or signs, against the character or reputation of another. Character or reputation must be here understood in the widest sense to include moral and social reputation and financial credit.”
Lord Atkin’s test: “Would the words tend to lower the plaintiff in the estimation of right thinking members of society generally?” has been accepted as representing the law of Scotland. However, while a useful formulation for gauging allegations of moral or social impropriety, it does not serve so well in the context of financial solvency. The courts have drawn a distinction between defamation, which has been confined to derogatory or demeaning imputations against character, credit or reputation, and other types of verbal injury, for example: false statements affecting business interests; false statements with the intention of exposing the pursuer to public hatred, contempt or ridicule; and slander against a third party.
Defamation consists of the communication of a false statement or idea, which is defamatory of the pursuer. If the statement is untrue and defamatory, the defender’s intention is irrelevant. Malice is presumed unless privilege is pleaded.
PHIL MAC GIOLLA BHAIN
We would draw your attention to posts from your blog entry “Big day at Ibrox”. This can be found at the following link:
This blog entry contains defamatory allegations about our clients and their business. These include allegations that our clients are moving for a controlled insolvency, that VAT is being avoided and that the club is planning for administration.
Each of these allegations are false, defamatory and malicious given that there is no basis in fact and there has been nor could there have been any attempt to verify the truth of what has been published. The allegations taken individually or together make clear to any reader that those we represent have taken a course of action which is wholly incorrect. The publication is intended or in any event has had the effect of damaging the reputation of our clients and creating a false impression regarding their business affairs. Given that the allegation are wholly without foundation, have no basis in fact and that you have made no attempt to justify what has been said or verify the content prior to publication makes clear that they are also malicious. Having defamed our client they are now entitled to an apology, damages and expenses.
DEFAMATION ACT 1996
The above act at, ss.2 to 4 sets out a scheme for making amends. A person who has published an allegedly defamatory statement may offer to make amends. An offer to make amends will consist of an offer of (i) correction of the statement and an apology, (ii) publication of the correction and apology, and (iii) payment of compensation. The offer cannot be made after an action by the aggrieved party has been defended, although it can be accepted after proceedings have been raised. If the offer is accepted, no proceedings for defamation may be brought or continued, although proceedings to enforce the offer may be taken. Such proceedings may include determination of the amount of compensation by the court. If the offer is not accepted, the fact that one has been tendered may be relied on as a defence to the exclusion of other defences. The defence that an offer was made is available where the defender neither knew nor had reason to believe that the statement referred to the aggrieved party and was false and defamatory of him, the defender however, has the considerable benefit of a presumption to this effect.
The Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act 2012 Section 6 states that “a person commits an offence if the person communicates material to another person, and the material consists of, contains or implies a threat, or an incitement to carry out a seriously violent act against the person or against the persons of a particular description, the material or the communication of it would be likely to cause a reasonable person to suffer fear and alarm, and the person communicating the material intends by doing so to cause fear and alarm, or it is reckless as to whether the communication of the material would cause fear or alarm.” These wholly false allegations attack our client’s reputation and are unfounded. These posts have caused our clients great alarm, are without basis, and constitute defamation in Scots Law. They are not only untrue but they were published with no intention of attempting to verify the truth or otherwise of what was said and for the purpose of deliberating damaging our clients reputation and to encourage, incite and inflame the opinion and intentions of those who read this publication. The publication is intended to damage our clients reputation, personally and in the business community.
These entries have appeared on your blog, which we understand is operated and promoted by you. We ask that given the content on this page is wholly unfounded and defamatory as outlined above, we ask this blog post be removed as a matter of urgency.
Please confirm receipt of this correspondence. We look forward to hearing from you.
Professor Peter Watson BA LLB SSC
Two weeks after receiving this interesting missive the club had to agree an emergency loan with Laxey Partners and Mr Alexander Easdale.
Since February 7th 2014 I have received no other communication from the Easdale Brothers or their representatives.
I thought it sufficient to allow events to vindicate me and to press on regardless with telling the Sevco story as it unfolded.
On receipt of the email from Professor Watson I simply passed it to my solicitor in Glasgow.
I doubt that the good Professor, even with his brilliant forensic mind, could have imagined that his missive would be passed around the tea room at an Irish Republican gathering.
I can exclusively reveal that it was given a right good parsing by the boys in Wexford.
For the avoidance of doubt I believe that the Easdale Brothers were in the Big House for essentially the correct reasons.
Of course Alexander Easdale remains on the football board holding the post of Chairman.
It is my personal opinion that he is doing a rather splendid job and I commend him.
If the Easdales had an ‘agenda’ at Sevco it was to acquire kudos and respectability for being associated with such a prestigious British brand.
In the school of bad decisions it is right up there with the best of them in this ongoing shambles.
Similarly I was saddened to learn today that Professor Watson had been suspended from the office of part-time Sheriff.
According to a newspaper report it is something to do with a “…massive fraud probe…” I do hope that all gets cleared up satisfactorily.
Meanwhile the chaps who march to the tune of Big Mike’s drum go about their business as if nothing of import had happened.
Just carry on regardless and ignore the froth and the noise.
This is exactly what my response was to the good Professor 12 months ago as I travelled to Wexford to have the craic with old comrades.