Rachel Riley could spend more than £1MILLION on legal fees

Rachel Riley’s legal bill could be more than £1MILLION in fees after losing latest round of libel battle against pro-Corbyn blogger who called the Countdown star a ‘serial abuser’, expert says

  • EXCLUSIVE: Legal expert suggests Rachel Riley could spend more than £1m on libel case
  • Riley had sued Mike Sivier over an article published online in January 2019
  • High Court judge ruled in favour of Ms Riley and struck out Mr Sivier’s defence
  • But Court of Appeal judges ruled his public interest defence should be assessed 
  • Lawyer Mark Stephens said Ms Riley will have spent around £70,000 so far 

Countdown star Rachel Riley’s libel battle against a pro-Jeremy Corbyn blogger who called her a ‘serial abuser’ and blamed her for the death threats sent to a 16-year-old girl on Twitter could cost her more than £1million, a leading lawyer has said.

Ms Riley, 35, sued Mike Sivier, who published an article on his website Vox Political in January 2019 with the headline: ‘Serial abuser Rachel Riley to receive ‘extra protection’ – on grounds that she is receiving abuse.’

Mr Sivier defended what he had published, arguing that it was ‘substantially true’, honest opinion, and a matter of public interest.

But a High Court judge ruled in favour of Ms Riley and struck out Mr Sivier’s defences in January this year. Mrs Justice Collins Rice concluded that he had ‘no prospect’ of succeeding at a trial.

However Mr Sivier launched an appeal against the ruling, and today won the latest round in the legal battle, after three Court of Appeal judges ruled that Mr Sivier’s public interest defence should be assessed at a trial.

Speaking to MailOnline after the ruling, leading defamation lawyer Mark Stephens said Ms Riley is likely to have spent up to £70,000 in her fight so far.

Mr Stephens, who previously represented Wikileaks founder Jeremy Assange, added that the star could ultimately spend more than £1million on the case and said a full-scale libel trial ‘as an absolute floor is £500,000’.   


Countdown star Rachel Riley (pictured left) has lost the latest round of a libel battle against Mike Sivier (right) who called her a ‘serial abuser’ and blamed her for the death threats sent to a 16-year-old girl on Twitter

One appeal judge, Lord Justice Warby, said in a written ruling: ‘I would allow the appeal.

‘I would set aside the order striking out the defence of publication on matter of public interest.’

He added: ‘In my view, the appropriate course is for the public interest defence to be assessed at a trial.’

The two other appeal judges, Lord Justice Henderson and Dame Victoria Sharp, said they agreed.

Mr Stephens said after the ruling: ‘I would’ve thought that she has spent around £60,000, maybe £70,000. 

‘A libel trial as an absolute floor is £500,000, most of them start at about £1million.’ 

Mr Stephens confirmed to MailOnline that the latter figure is what Ms Riley could end up spending on the trial.

He added: ‘If she wins she will get some costs back but she has lost this round so she will have to pay Mike Sivier’s costs and his barrister for the appeal which will be £15,00 – £20,000.’

It comes as Ms Riley waits to hear whether she has won a separate damages fight after suing a former aide to Jeremy Corbyn for libel.

She sued Laura Murray, 32, over a tweet posted two years ago.

Ms Riley (above) also sued Laura Murray, 32, over a tweet posted two years ago. A High Court judge finished overseeing a three-day trial at the High Court in London earlier this week

A High Court judge finished overseeing a three-day trial at the High Court in London earlier this week.

Mr Justice Nicklin is expected to publish a ruling in the near future.

Ms Riley’s dispute with Mr Sivier centres on tweets posted as part of an online debate on anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, some of which were exchanged between Ms Riley and a Twitter user who identified herself as a 16-year-old called Rose.

The TV presenter has told how she is Jewish, has a ‘hatred of anti-Semitism’, speaks out against it and thinks the Corbyn-led Labour Party was ‘fostering anti-Semitism’.

Speaking to MailOnline after the ruling, leading defamation lawyer Mark Stephens said Ms Riley is likely to have spent up to £70,000 in her fight so far. Mr Stephens, who prevously represented Wikileaks founder Jeremy Assange, added that the star could ultimately spend more than £1million on the case

Ms Riley, who studied mathematics at Oxford University, had asked Mrs Justice Collins Rice to strike out Mr Sivier’s defences before the case went to trial.

Mrs Justice Collins Rice granted her application, and said that, contrary to allegations in Mr Sivier’s article, Ms Riley’s online discussion with Rose was a ‘straightforward, rational and respectful exchange of views’.

The judge also said there was no evidence that the presenter had encouraged any of her 600,000 followers to harass Rose, and she was not responsible for any abuse the teenager received.

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