A Tale Of Two Crowd-Funders
It was the worst of crimes, it was the best of crimes...
On 27th May, celebrity TV doctor, Christian Jessen, was found to have libelled Northern Ireland’s First Minister, Arlene Foster.
On 23rd December 2019, when Arlene Foster was the DUP leader, Jessen made unfounded allegations that she was having an extra-marital affair.
In a tweet to his 300,000+ followers Jessen wrote, “Rumours are bouncing around that the DUPs Arlene Foster has been busted having an affair. Isn’t she the ‘sanctity if [sic] marriage’ preaching woman? It always comes to bite them on the arse in the end, Rather satisfying to us gay boys who she made feel even shittier….”.
Jessen failed to respond to communications from Foster’s lawyer, Paul Tweed, who demanded that the comment be removed. Jessen simply replied “lol” to Tweed’s warning that the tweet could result in legal action.
The tweet was not deleted until 7th January 2020, over a fortnight later, but even then Jessen did not offer a retraction or apology.
When Foster finally did take legal action against him, Jessen failed to respond to her legal team and did not engage with the process for over 12 months, despite innumerable attempts to contact him by post and email. He said he believed that court proceedings weren’t in operation due to Covid 19 restrictions and claimed that he had been in isolation due to his poor mental health.
The court found that his comment about Arlene foster was defamatory.
Delivering his judgment at the High Court in Belfast, Mr Justice McAlinden said that Jessen’s tweet had caused Foster ‘humiliation, embarrassment and hurt’.
“It is an outrageous libel concerning an individual of considerable standing, attacking her integrity at the most fundamental level, and it involves the trashing in a very public fashion of the relationship that Ms Foster holds dearest in her life.
It affected core aspects of her life, namely her relationship with her husband, her deep Christian faith, it called into question her fitness and suitability to occupy the office of first minister at a time when delicate negotiations were continuing on the re-establishment of the Northern Ireland Executive.”
Jessen was ordered to pay damages of £125,000 and Arlene Foster's legal costs.
He immediately set up a fundraising page via GoFundMe on which he states that he is ‘considering an appeal’ and seeking to raise £150,000 to fight what he describes as ‘a most unfair situation’.
Several media reports, however, seem to suggest that the funding page was set up to cover the legal fees and damages he incurred rather than to finance an appeal.
Until recently, Jessen worked at a private Harley Street clinic. He now appears to be practicing online, offering virtual appointments at a cost of £150 for a 30-minute consultation. He’s also worked extensively as a television presenter and general media-bawd since 2007.
During the case, as documented in the court records, Jessen gave evidence that, at the time of the offence, he was living at a prestigious London address on Westminster Bridge Road. The electoral register shows that he had lived at this property for over 10 years. It then transpired that he not only owned this property, but also a second luxury apartment in the same building. A current online evaluation of both properties suggests a combined market value of almost £2 million.
Jessen now claims he faces bankruptcy over the court ruling.
Elsewhere in the news this week, a feminist campaigner from Airdrie in Scotland has been charged with a ‘hate crime’ over her Twitter posts.
Marion Millar is a mother, an accountant and a feminist who campaigns to protect women’s sex based rights. She has been charged with a ‘hate crime’ under the Malicious Communications Act for tweets posted in 2019 and 2020. She is alleged to have posted ‘homophobic and transphobic’ material on social media and could face two years imprisonment if she is convicted.
Her arrest followed a long-drawn out process with the Scottish Police during which she suffered sleepless nights and extreme stress.
She was told she had to attend a police interview. She was told she’d need to attend a police station with a holding cell. She was told an officer would attend her house bringing social workers for her children. She was not told what she was supposed to have done. Her interview was scheduled. Then it was cancelled. Then it was re-scheduled… Her torment made the papers.
Eventually, about six weeks after the police initially demanded she attend an interview, Marion was charged.
It seems that one of the ‘offending’ tweets Marion posted involved a photograph of a loop of ribbon in suffragette colours.
Marion set up a crowd-funder in order to raise money for her legal fees. Within a couple of hours she’d raised over £13K. But then GoFundMe removed her page.
It seems that Marion’s crowd-funder violated GoFundMe’s terms of service.
Probably this one.
So much for being innocent until proven guilty. How can someone alleged to have committed a crime be expected to prove their innocence if GoFundMe refuse them a facility to finance their legal defence?
It doesn’t seem fair or equitable that the service was removed so swiftly from a feminist campaigner whose alleged offences remain, as yet, unknown and unproven, while a man already found to be in breach of the law has no problems using the site to fund an appeal he is still only ‘considering’.
But, as GoFundMe are clearly such sticklers for the applying of regulations to the letter, here’s something they may wish to consider.
'MarionMillar' #WomenWontWheesht @millar_marionThank you so so much for your kind donations, they tras have won again, all your money will be returned to you within 3 - 7 days. Thank you all for trying ❤ https://t.co/Jsg9h8FAv8