A former senior Labour staffer who tried to force the party to reveal who it believes leaked an internal report into the handling of allegations of anti-Semitism has lost her High Court bid.
An internal investigation carried out in the final months of Jeremy Corbyn‘s leadership concluded that ‘factional opposition’ towards the former leader contributed to ‘a litany of mistakes’ hindering efforts to tackle the crisis.
The 860-page report on Labour’s governance and legal unit, which found ‘no evidence’ of anti-Semitism being handled differently from other complaints, was leaked in April last year.
Emilie Oldknow, Labour’s former director of governance, wants to bring claims for defamation and misuse of private information over the leaking of the report, which contains more than 500 references to her.
At a remote hearing last week, her lawyers asked the High Court to grant an order requiring Labour to reveal ‘the identity or identities of those responsible’ for the leak so she can sue them.
Ms Oldknow’s barrister, William Bennett QC, had told the court the report was a ‘politically motivated hatchet job’ which sought to blame Ms Oldknow and others for Labour’s ‘failure’ to deal with allegations of anti-Semitism.
The report also accused Ms Oldknow – who is married to shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth – and her colleagues of ‘undermining Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership’, he said.
But today Mrs Justice Tipples refused Ms Oldknow’s application for an order forcing Labour to disclose who it ‘reasonably believes’ was responsible for the leak.
Emilie Oldknow – Labour’s former director of governance (pictured with Jeremy Corbyn) – wants to bring claims for defamation and misuse of private information over the leaking of the report, which contains more than 500 references to her
The judge said that ‘a request such as this smacks of fishing’, adding that requiring the party to identify who it thinks may have leaked the report ‘will be doing no more than identifying a list of who it reasonably believes are to be the culprits’.
She said: ‘There is therefore no certainty that the information sought will lead to the identification of the wrongdoer or wrongdoers.’
Mrs Justice Tipples found there was ‘a real risk that the order sought by the claimant will reveal the names of innocent persons’.
She added that this posed ‘a very real potential to cause harm to any innocent persons as they will then find themselves threatened with legal proceedings, which they will then have to defend’.
Mr Bennett had said Labour has ‘reached a clear view as to who was responsible for the leak’, but has ‘studiously avoided giving any explanation as to what happened’.
Mrs Justice Tipples refused Ms Oldknow’s application for an order forcing Labour to disclose who it ‘reasonably believes’ was responsible for the leak (pictured: Royal Courts of Justice)
He added that Ms Oldknow ‘wishes to bring those people to account, who anonymously, surreptitiously leaked the Labour Party report against the wishes of the Labour Party’.
But Anya Proops QC, representing Labour, said the party did not want to ‘provide our subjective opinion on who is legally liable’ for the leak.
Five anonymous individuals who deny any responsibility of the leak, and who are supported by the trade union Unite, also attempted to intervene in the application after they were told by Labour that they were ‘likely to be affected’ if Ms Oldknow’s application was successful.
Their barrister, Jacob Dean, said it was clear that Labour ‘does not know who leaked the report’ and argued that ‘the potential for injustice is manifest’ if the party was forced to reveal who it thought had leaked the report.
Mrs Justice Tipples said in her ruling that Labour faced potential legal action ‘not only from the claimant (Ms Oldknow), but from seven other individuals as well in relation to the leaking of the report’.
Ms Oldknow’s application for permission to appeal against the ruling was refused by Mrs Justice Tipples, but Ms Oldknow can still apply directly to the Court of Appeal.
She was also ordered to pay Labour’s legal costs and also some of Unite’s legal fees for making written submissions on her application.
In a statement, Unite welcomed the ruling and said it was ‘pleased the court allowed us to intervene in this application to make submissions on behalf of our members’, adding: ‘The principles of confidentiality are vital for workers to have confidence in the workplace.’