Former Labour MP threatens to call in the bailiffs in row with Unite union

Posted On: 
17th January 2020

A former Labour MP who won a libel battle with the Unite union has threatened to call in the bailiffs to recover her costs.

Anna Turley is the former MP for Redcar

Anna Turley, who represented Redcar from 2015 until she lost her seat in December's election, successfully sued Unite and blogger Stephen Walker, who runs the website Skwawkbox, over a story published in 2017.

She was awarded £75,000 in libel damages over a Swkawkbox piece which included a statement from Unite and which had claimed she had acted dishonestly while applying to become a member of the union.

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The ex-MP had taken the union and site to court over the "false and defamatory" allegations about her, with the judge agreeing that publication of the article had caused "serious harm" to Ms Turley's reputation.

Ms Turley's lawyers have now contacted the legal firm representing Unite in a bid to chase the costs awarded to Ms Turley.

A strongly-worded letter from solicitors Hamlins, sent on Friday, hits out at what it calls a "belated promise" to settle some of damages by the end of this week.

And the firm writes: "Your clients have had 4 weeks to organise these funds.

"This is not the first time they have failed to comply with a Court Order requiring them to pay an adverse costs order. Separately, the damages on our client’s Data Protection claim should have been paid by 3 December last year.

"The only conclusion we can draw is that your clients have deliberately chosen to cause further distress to Ms Turley or they are incompetent. Which is it? Even now, there is no apology or explanation for these delays, nor any indication as to whether or when they intend to pay the 10% penalty damages imposed by the Court which were also supposed to be paid by 4pm yesterday."

Ms Turley's lawyers go on to raise the prospect of further enforcement action next week.

"We have prepared enforcement papers that will permit bailiffs to attend at your clients’ premises to enforce the two final judgements," they write.

"We shall issue these when the Court opens on Monday morning if the full judgement debts, together with ongoing interest, have not been satisfied."

Ms Turley said: "Unite and Skwawkbox have failed to pay the damages and costs following my libel trial last month as ordered by the court.  My solicitors are starting enforcement proceedings in the morning."

A spokesperson for Unite declined to comment.