Libel: Monroe v Hopkins

Under Scots Law, an offending statement may not always be defamatory as it can fall within another category of hurtful words i.e. malicious falsehood or slander of title. To be defamatory a statement must be false and must lower the defamed in the estimation of right thinking members of society. A court will establish what that standard is today when considering the statement. Additionally, it is important to remember that to accuse someone of making defamatory comments may, of itself, be defamatory.

For an action to be raised the alleged defamatory statement must be communicated. The traditional forms of communication are publication in print or oral dissemination. However, nowadays the number of platforms on which communication can occur have increased. Online social platforms such as, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and the numerous blogging platforms, have increased the modes of communication where a defamatory statement can occur.

February of this year provided us with a high-profile libel case initiated over words posted on online social platform, twitter.  Monroe v Hopkins provided us some valuable guidance on how to keep on the right side of the law when writing online. You might think that you have posted a light-hearted tweet or a funny response, but it may not come across as that to the receiver and you could be opening yourself up to potential law suits.

In this case the issues at trial were:

  1. Do tweets fall under the definition of defamation at common law?
  2. If so, have the tweets caused or are they likely to cause serious harm to the reputation of the claimant?

Hopkins sent a message accusing another of vandalism of a war memorial, but the tweet was directed to the wrong person. A simple case of mistaken identity which Hopkins attempted to rectify by deleting the tweet two hours after it was published. Mr Wilson, Hopkins lawyer, argued that: “The readership would have been limited because the tweet was a reply and deleted after two hours, and that readers would understand it was a case of mistaken identity” and “Ms Hopkins lawyers have argued that Ms Hopkins is well-known for being confrontational, outrageous and flippant and that therefore the allegations would have been taken with a pinch of salt”.

Therefore, although no official defence was lodged it was argued that the tweet did not constitute a defamatory statement.

In considering the case Warnby J provided:

“whilst the claimant may not have proved that her reputation suffered gravely, I am satisfied that she has established that the publications complained of caused serious harm to her reputation”.

“Which implies that this judgment could apply to twitter accounts smaller than Hopkins’.

This case provides us with valuable information that no matter how viewed your online platform is or how long the alleged defamatory statement is published, you can still be tried for defamation. If this case tells us anything; it that you should consider the way in which your online publications can be construed. Hopkins could easily have avoided this if she published an apology to Monroe. A simple request.

Full Monroe v Hopkins judgement can be viewed here:

Changes to Succession

The latter end of 2016 witnessed changes to the laws of succession in Scotland. The Succession (Scotland) Act 1964 is now the Succession (Scotland) Act 2016, which came into force on the 1st November 2016.

This Act has introduced many significant changes to the laws of Scotland which will impact a deceased’s estate and those looking to claim from it. The main points being:

  • If a person dies without leaving a Will the Act abolishes the requirement of a Bond of Caution when the estate is considered as a “Small Estate”, less than £36,000.
  • If there is a mistake in the Will, which was not drafted by you, then there is a small window of time in which you can apply to the court and have the mistake rectified. The Act allows you to apply to the Court of Session or the Sheriff Court within six months to have the issue corrected.
  • If you draft a new Will to replace one already existing, but then revoke the new Will, your old Will would be revived and dictate the distribution of your estate.
  • If you die on or after the 1st November 2016, a former spouse or civil partner will no longer inherit under an existing Will, following a divorce. This also means that any special destinations will be revoked upon divorce. However, if you do wish for the provision to still stand then you must take specific steps to provide for this in your Will.
  • It is no longer the case that the younger is presumed to have survived the elder.
  • Trustees and executors are to be given some statutory protection if they have incorrectly distributed assets to the wrong beneficiary.

These changes have majorly amended an area of law which has been stagnant for fifty years to reflect the changes within society.

OUR REVIEW OF THE WEEK IN LAW (25/4/16-29/4/16

GCU lawIt’s been a while since we’ve had one of these posts up but dissertation deadlines, coursework and exams have all gotten in the way.


The families of the victims of the Hillsborough tragedy are planning to launch a multimillion-pound claim against two police forces following this week’s decision that the 96 victims were unlawfully killed. James Saunders of Saunders Law, on behalf of the victims, spoke of evidence of a systematic cover-up intended to shift the blame away from the police. His colleague Nia Williams said the action was, “for accountability, not damages”, for the families who have been suffering since 1989.

Read more at:

More on the inquest and the fight for justice can be found in the excellent work of David Conn (@David_Conn) and can be read here.


Produced by The Hunter Foundation in partnership with a host of the UK’s leading European scholars a free eBook entitled Britain’s Decision – Facts and Impartial Analysis has identified 19 key questions. It attempts to offer impartial analysis of these 19 issues and Sir Tom Hunter hopes that it will allow voters to make up their own mind about the huge decision ahead.

Read more at:

The E-Book is available for download here


A challenge brought by two Britons living abroad, one in Italy and the other in Belgium who wanted to have their say in the forthcoming referendum have had their bid denied. It is estimated two million Britons living elsewhere within the EU will not be able to take part in the referendum. Aidan O’Neill QC who represented the expats said that in the event of a victory for the Leave campaign British expats would no longer be EU citizens, meaning that their rights to live, work and receive health care free at the point of use will be in jeopardy. James Eadie QC, representing the government argued that had the challenge been successful then it would be impossible for the referendum to take place as planned on 23 June.

Read more at:


Former GCU Law lecturer Chris McCorkindale (@chrismccork) has written a piece examining issues with the expansion of judicial power resulting from devolution. These powers carry significant constitutional implications yet have not been the subject of any serious scrutiny. Chris breaks down the implications in an excellent piece for the Judicial Power Project.

Read the piece in full at:


The nominees for the next UK judge at the ECHR have been revealed. Tim Eicke QC has appeared at the Supreme Court numerous times instructed by both claimants and the government. He has been a QC since 2011. Jessica Simor QC has also appeared for both claimants and the government and recently represented pro-privacy groups at the European Court of Justice against the UK government in a surveillance case.  Finally, Murray Hunt, a founder of Matrix Chambers and visiting lecturer at Oxford University who also advises parliaments joint committee on human rights.

Read more on the nominees and the post at the ECHR at:


For anyone with a spare ten minutes GCU Law lecturer Nick McKerrell (@DrNikLaw) has recorded an excellent podcast on the European Convention on Human Rights and whether Theresa May can remove us from it.

The podcast can be found here:


Three defendants accused of selling counterfeit One Direction merchandise had proceedings against them halted while the judge, Ian Lawrie QC, had to ask their barrister who the boyband are.

Read more at:

OUR REVIEW OF THE WEEK IN LAW (21/3/16-25/3/16)

GCU lawIt’s been a busy week in the law clinic as in addition to our client workload we ran a Speed Networking evening in the university on Tuesday and attended the Scottish Legal Awards last night. We were nominated in the Pro Bono category and made it all the way to the final four. Unfortunately we didn’t win but there’s always next year and there will be posts up soon on both events. Anyway, these are the legal stories which caught our volunteers attention this week.

Hulk Hogan Wins Damages Case Against Gawker

Last week’s review linked to the Hulk Hogan v Gawker showdown in the US Courts. The decision was reached this week and The Hulkster will be very happy with the result! He has been awarded $115m in damages and the size of the award has led to questions regarding the impact it will have across the publishing industry and also on the future of Gawker.

Read more at:


Call For Worldwide Decriminalisation Of Drugs

Medical experts believe that current drug policies are leading to deaths, violence, the spread of disease and in addition harm both health and human rights. Should drug use be treated as a health issue rather than a criminal one?

Read more at:


Faculty of Advocates Pro Bono Scheme Praised

Mr Justice Langstaff has praised the Faculty of Advocates for a scheme which helps claimants at hearings of the Employment Appeal Tribunal. For people without legal experience to appear on their own behalf can be a frightening prospect so the assistance of the Faculty in addressing this unmet legal need is of massive benefit.

Read more at:


Who Regulates The Robot Lawyers

An artificial intelligence designed by a 19 year old student is estimated to have save people £2m and rising in parking fines. The site which provides legal advice is not regulated by a legal regulatory body so who actually oversees it if it goes wrong?

Read more at:

OUR REVIEW OF THE WEEK IN LAW (14/3/16 TO 18/3/16)

GCU lawThree and Four Year Olds Able To Represent Themselves In Court?

A senior immigration judge in the United States argued this week that 3 and 4 year old children can be taught to understand immigration law and subsequently represent themselves in court.  This claim comes as an argument rages in the U.S. over whether or not migrants are entitled to tax-payer funded legal representation.  However, despite reiterating this claim, he was derided by legal and child-psychology experts with the later in particular noting that child development at the ages of 3 and 4 is lacking the logical reasoning required to represent oneself in court.

Read more at:


Right to Die Law To Be Voted on in Belgium

In European news, Belgian lawmakers will vote on a controversial right to die law in which Doctors will be given seven days to approve or reject any person’s petition for the right to die or to pass it on to another doctor if required. The proposed law was introduced by the socialist opposition party in Belgium and is interesting because it also includes healthy people who wish to die. Owing to Belgium’s liberal stance on euthanasia laws, the law is receiving support from the majority of Government and is likely to succeed.

Read more at:


“Mhairi Black: Westminster is worse than I feared” – video interview:

The UK’s youngest serving MP, Mhairi Black, discusses her experiences with columnist and political author, Owen Jones. Black talks barriers to politics, and what she feels is the antiquated Westminster ‘old boys club’. She feels that they are “excluded from reality”, allowing tradition to rule over reason. Jones questions the impact of the Scottish referendum on the Scottish electorate and Black herself, to which she praises the now highly educated and politically engaged population. Finally, she discusses the changing attitudes toward the Labour party in Scotland, and why she feels that this occurred.

To see the full interview, please follow this link:


“What the 2016 Budget Means for You” – Miles Brignall

A quick-fire guide to what the 2016 Budget could mean for you, your family, and your future.



Time for the Legal Profession to Fully Embrace Technoloy?

The legal profession is one which can be seen as stuffy and old fashioned. There is also a sense that lawyers spend so much time learning how things are that they are resistant to change. There are a number of start-ups which are aiming to change this and bring some innovation. In a shrinking market with improving competition a number of firms are attempting to position themselves at the forefront of legaltech.

Read more at:


Guy Ritchie and Madonna’s Custody Fight Hits the Headlines

Guy Ritchie has sought advice from Fathers4Justice in his fight with Madonna over custody of their son Rocco. He felt the need to do this in order to get a ‘jargon-free rundown’ of his parental rights.

Read more:


Hulk Hogan in Court Claiming Damages For Publication of a Sex Tape

Wrestling superstar Hulk Hogan has been attempting to sue the website Gawker for millions of dollars after they posted a video he featured in online. This trial is on-going but has already seen a number of bizarre claims. The New York Times has done an excellent job of going behind the headline grabbing claims to examine the legal issues in what could turn into a pivotal case in internet law.

Read more at:



GCU lawThese are the legal stories which caught our volunteers eyes this week. We’re in the process of getting some original pieces together on the big stories put up on here to follow on from our podcast series last year but until now here are our legal highlights of the week.

Should Schools Ban Tackling In Rugby?

There have been calls for a ban on tackling in rugby at school level backed by a group of more than 70 doctors and sporting experts who have sent a letter to government ministers. The risk of brain injuries caused by head trauma has been a major concern to World Rugby whose Chief Medical Officer has conceded a rule change may be required. At the moment the responsibility for the decision lies with the schools but this is shaping up to be a very contentious debate.

 Read more at:

 Court of Appeal Overturns Prison Smoking Ban

The Government has successfully applied for the ban on smoking in prisons to be overturned. The ban on smoking in public places does not apply to state prisons and other crown premises in England and Wales according to the appeal court.

 Read more at:

Reform to UK Finance Law

Provisions in UK finance law are being expanded to include rogue bankers who will now face lengthy prison terms if they are found guilty of ‘reckless misconduct’ in the course of their business.  The new Certification Regime and Conduct Rules will hold bankers accountable at an individual level. Furthermore, the existing provisions known as ‘Senior Managers and Certification Regime’ have been extended to include all sectors of the financial services industry.  These developments have been in place since Monday the 7th March 2016.  Chancellor George Osbourne is hopeful that these tougher provisions will avoid the financial crises experienced in recent years and to ensure that the banking sector performs to an adequate standard.

Read More at:

Legal Aid Granted for Private Prosecution in the Glasgow Bin Lorry Crash

The relatives of the victims of the Glasgow bin lorry crash have been granted legal aid after seeking a private prosecution against Harry Clarke, the driver of the bin lorry.

The Crown Office refused to charge Clarke, who fainted at the wheel, for the deaths of the six pedestrians, despite a fatal accident inquiry finding that he had lied about his medical history. Erin McQuade and her grandparents, Jack and Lorraine Sweeney, the relatives of the three victims of the Christmas 2014 crash, are seeking the prosecution against Clarke and have now applied directly to the high court for permission to stage the case.

The Scottish government’s justice secretary, Michael Matheson, said legal aid would also be granted to Clarke and to William Payne, who is facing a similar prosecution by relatives of the victims involved in a similar incident in Glasgow city centre in 2010. Matheson said the case can go ahead as it “raises fundamental questions that have not previously been tested in case law.”

Read more at:

 However, there has been criticism from people who believe the prosecution should not go ahead, particularly privately.  Judges will decide on this within the next week. GCU lecturer in law Andrew Tickell goes behind the headlines with his analysis at

Demand for Pro Bono Work has Almost Doubled since Cuts to Legal Aid

The number of applications the Bar Pro Bono Unit receives for legal assistance has almost doubled since widespread cuts to civil legal aid was introduced three years ago.

The Justice Secretary, Michael Gove, endorsed pro bono legal work in his first policy, proposing that the UK’s “two-nation” justice system can be improved by persuading “those who have benefited financially from our legal culture … to invest in its roots”.

Increasing demand for free legal representation and advice has applied serious pressures on legal aid charities and the goodwill of barristers and solicitors.

Over 3,600 barristers have committed themselves to helping desperate claimants. Jess Campbell, the unit’s chief executive, said: “We are seeing a 30% increase in applications year on year. The bar has always supported pro bono work and giving unbilled hours. It’s in the nature of the profession to do it.” Approximately 90% of the unit’s funding comes from the bar, chambers and individual barristers.

Legal professionals warn that pro bono work is not there to fill any legal aid gap.

Read more at:

Online Court proposed to resolve claims of up to £25,000

The Civil Justice council has called for an internet-based dispute resolutions system to be implemented within the next two years. The official body that overlooks the Civil Courts has recommended that the UK Justice system should adapt to the shifting patterns of the so called ‘digital age’ with the introduction of an online court system to widen access to justice and resolve claims of up to £25,000. Low-value civil court cases in England and Wales could be dealt with by online disputes which would similar to that already used by eBay.                                                                               The report’s principle author, Professor Richard Susskind, said that ‘’The current system is too costly, too complex and too slow, especially for litigants in person’’. The online dispute resolution (ODR) model proposes a three-tier process: the evaluation through interactive services and information, discussion between online ‘’facilitators’’ and finally, if no agreement has been reached, then a resolution would be achieved by a trained judge relying on electronic submissions. If it was felt necessary, then a telephone hearings system could also be built in the final stage of the system. Only the judge would have to be legally qualified and rulings by the ‘’online judge’’ would be as enforceable as any traditional courtroom judgment.

Read more into the issue at:

Judge challenges government over legal representation for vulnerable people

Mr Justice Charles, a senior high court judge, has challenged the government to provide legal assistance and representation for vulnerable people as a backlog of safeguards cases that cannot be tried builds up in the court of protection. The ruling, if applied, will halt the advancement of thousands of sensitive requests a year most commonly involving those with dementia, Alzheimer’s or learning disabilities who need some sort of treatment involving some loss of liberty. The judgement comes as a result of the most recent confrontation in the debate between the legal profession and ministers over how much money should be spent on the justice system in a time of real difficulty.


Our Review Of The Week In Law (29/2/16 to 4/3/16)

GCU lawThese are the legal stories that caught our eye last week and this will be the first of a series of weekly posts where we’ll round up the week in law as seen by our volunteers.

Divorce to move online by 2017?

Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division, has recently told barristers that certain court proceedings, such as divorce, could be “digitised” as soon as 2017. Citing increasing amounts of litigants and a necessity for the law to improve, online divorce proceedings amongst other standardised court procedures could become the norm for the majority of litigants seeking such services.

This type of standardised and streamlined service could provide relief to both those seeking an immediate legal action and courts struggling through a backlog of litigants and cases. However, the question remains whether or not an emotionally muddled action like a divorce could be done through something as simple as a questionnaire?

Read more at:

On that same theme an app created by a Canadian Law Graduate that aims to simplify the divorce procedure is preparing for a UK release.  The app, called Thistoo, aims to speed up the process by offering automated completion of relevant documents in cases where couples are self-representing.  It also offers a database of previous decisions to give an idea of the outcome of the case. It is hoped that access to this software will save time and money and alleviate some of the strain of an otherwise stressful time. However, critics argue that the provision of legal services in this method detracts from the personal approach that is required during such proceedings and is unlikely to make much of an impact in changing the methods of providing these services.

Read more at:

New Snoopers Charter

Hours after more than 100 MP’s lodged an objection to the snoopers charter, Theresa May brought the bill before parliament and the second reading is due 14th of April.  Argued that such a rapid turnaround shows contempt for privacy and may have serious implications on Human Rights.

Read more at:

Changes to Vicarious Liability

Two significant decisions which will impact vicarious liability

Cox v MoJ ( Case but will likely be followed) Vicarious liability extended beyond the contract of employment to inmates in a prison

Mohamud v Morrisons  ( (Also English) – Assualts by employees are covered by the doctrine, where normally they wouldn’t be as it isn’t within the scope of duties.

Read more at: