Countdown presenter Rachel Riley and actor Tracy-Ann Oberman have dropped their joint libel claim against a barrister for retweeting a critical blog post about the pair.
Jane Heybroek, an immigration lawyer, said the duo had withdrawn their case after 18 months of legal action, which saw her run up a legal bill of £65,000.
In 2019 Heybroek had retweeted a link to a lengthy blog post by a man called Shaun Lawson entitled “Beneath Contempt: How Tracy-Ann Oberman and Rachel Riley harassed, dogpiled and slandered a 16-year-old child and her father”. The article made allegations about the actions of Oberman and Riley towards a young Labour activist who had made comments about antisemitism in the political party.
Heybroek did not publish the original blog post and said there was no evidence that anyone read it as a result of her retweet.
Heybroek said she spent tens of thousands of pounds on the case, while Riley and Oberman, who have been actively involved in highlighting allegations of antisemitism in the Labour party, were represented on a no-win no-fee basis: “This meant that there was almost no risk to them in bringing the claim. Many people would have felt forced to settle for reasons of pragmatism.”
At a hearing earlier this year a judge described Heybroek as “broadly supportive of Jeremy Corbyn” but said there was no other clear evidence of her political position.
Heybroek said that despite Riley and Oberman’s “vocal stance against antisemitism” in other legal cases, this claim “did not actually involve any allegations of antisemitism”.
“Unfortunately, as a result of the litigation, I was the subject of a number of nasty comments from a small minority of people who simply presumed to know what the case was about and what the outcome would be. They were wrong on both counts.”
Riley and Oberman’s solicitor Mark Lewis, of Patron Law, said in a statement that his clients “chose not to proceed further after the judge had determined that the opinion expressed was capable of being defamatory, in circumstances where Jane Heybroek claimed that she had promptly deleted her tweet”.
They have both now made a contribution towards Heybroek’s costs.
Lewis said: “Their libel insurers each did not see any advantage in pursuing a case over the liability of a retweet that was deleted so quickly.
“There are bigger fish to fry in the pursuit of those who choose to maintain a serious libel.”