Activism

Peter Reynolds campaigning in the Corby by-electionAs some of you may remember, I was sued for libel by Peter Reynolds, President (“irrevocable until death”) of CLEAR-Cannabis Law Reform, for posting a variety of things that he didn’t like on my blog, the long story of which you can read here. I defended myself as a litigant-in-person and me and Peter Reynolds battled our way across reams of paper and multiple trips to Court until eventually it turned out that he didn’t care anywhere near as much as I did about him being a homophobic racist (probably should have seen that one coming) and just wanted me to take down the one article that I had no principled attachment to.

So, we signed a settlement agreement in which I took down the article, Peter Reynolds withdrew his lawsuit and gave up any right to sue me for calling him a homophobic racist on the internet or to claim costs against me, and we both signed a gagging order for a year. That ran out in 2015.

Was one article worth the estimated £2500 Peter Reynolds spent on suing me?  

A question only he can answer, I guess.

*shrugs*

I never meant to fall into the campaign to legalise cannabis, I was happily working away on drug law reform when Peter Reynolds burst into my life and called me a “genetically confused half-werewolf half-woman” and the community rallied behind me (for which I remain grateful, thankyou). So after Peter Reynolds finally backed away from the cliff of his own making, although I met some good people in the cannabis movement, it wasn’t really my world, and I moved on to other things. I am a qualified mental health occupational therapist, I have a full-time job, I do stuff that is fulfilling, and interesting and cool. Peter Reynolds and that time he sued a 23 year old Theology graduate for allegedly libelling him has been nought but a killer dinner party story for years now. Many, many people have been entertained.

However, I was not the only person who got sued. In 2013, Peter Reynolds sued me, Chris Bovey, Alun Buffry and Greg De Hoedt, for which he had admitted that he had paid £1600 each to file writs against us.

Alun settled, at no cost to him and now that his gagging order has run out, with no consequences for his speech.

I settled, at no cost to me, and now that my gagging order has run out, with no consequences for my speech.

Greg did not respond to the lawsuit and paid £5,000 in court fees and other costs.

But what of Chris?

Well, Chris is of considerably greater means that either me or Alun and successfully had Peter Reynolds’ case thrown out. Pinder Reaux are one of the best libel lawfirms in the country and they made fairly short work of Peter Reynolds’ fairly wild allegations that it was libellous to call him a racist just because he published stuff like this:

State of our nation blogpost

Sadly “my oldest friend is a jet black Jamaican” entered our vocabulary just a little too early to take full advantage of the meme era.

Because you have to state exactly who saw the publication and in whose eyes your reputation has been lowered, Peter Reynolds also alleged that all 23 million UK users of Facebook should be considered to have seen the offending words and images that Chris had posted to his private Facebook feed. Chris certainly has friends, but he doesn’t have 23 million of them.

Unsurprisingly, with such stellar legal arguments as this, Peter Reynolds had his case thrown out by Master Eastman in the Royal Courts of Justice, and Chris was awarded £20,482.04 in costs. Then Peter Reynolds piled up some more costs trying to appeal, then some more trying to make an application alleging that Chris was harassing him. All were thrown out for one reason or another, and then suddenly the bill looked like this:

Final costs bill Peter Reynolds v Chris Bovey

That is… a big number.

That’s where the public accounting of this story ended, because suddenly Peter Reynolds, so enthusiastic a communicator that at one point I had to require him to contact me only via a third party to whom I had granted power of attorney to interact with him on my behalf to stop the tide of threats and whinging appearing in my inbox at all hours of the day, mysteriously vanished, despite continuing to tweet dozens of times a day. Faced with a £20k+ legal bill, he floated away on the ether, moving house, refusing to notify Chris’ lawyers as to where he had gone, and generally pretending that he hadn’t actually spent hundreds of hours of his time and ours claiming that he was going to win the greatest legal victory since Magna Carta.

It has a been a frustrating few years for Chris, trying to track down the most important man to hit the cannabis movement since the inventor of the bong, who mysteriously never attends public cannabis events, conferences, nor seemingly has any relationship with anyone at all in the movement.  He somehow managed to lose another entire Exec back in 2016 as well – even Derek joined them that time (Derek’s meltdown in the comments of my post on Peter Reynolds impersonating a fictional journalist, btw, is still something I read every six months or so, and I highly recommend if you want to be tickled).

Unfortunately for Peter Reynolds, his parents were real people, and in 2016 his mother passed away, leaving a will that we found in a public registry. A will which left him one fifth of a six figure sum, minus the money he had borrowed from his parents, presumably to pay court fees.

Peter Reynolds admits stealing from his mother.

Date unknown but pre-2013.

So Chris’ lawyers notified the solicitors holding some of the money that Chris had a legal right to claim what he was owed and they were prepared to make a legal application (with even more costs attached) to get it paid directly to him, and even then, Peter Reynolds still, initially, tried to refuse to pay it.

But eventually, finally, even Peter Reynolds, god-man, could run no longer. Likely faced with few (if any) options, and presumably on advice from qualified legal professionals, he gave in, gave up, and handed over to Chris’ lawyer the sum of £36,323,86.

Costs order paid

To quote Judge Tugenhat’s judgement: “pleading in defamation cases is a minefield for the amateur. I am afraid that Mr Reynolds has not got through the minefield”

 

The wheels of justice grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine.

 

Chris is pretty chuffed, obviously:

Chris Bovey Peter Reynolds Lawsuit

Chris with his costs order.

 

Chris also had this to say:

‘I always knew from day one I would win and I was prepared to fight the racist loony all the way. It did cause a me a huge amount of hassle, but at the end of the day I am not the one who ended up with a huge amount of egg on my face and despite him boasting that I stood ‘not a snowball’s chance in hell of getting a penny from him’, he’s now paid up almost double what he was originally ordered to pay.

To quote Master Eastman’s judgment in 2014, Peter Reynolds failed to traverse the minefield in the defamation case he brought against me. He has also failed to evade paying me the Court ordered monies he had been ordered to pay me since that time. It has taken a very long time to ensure that Peter Reynolds paid his dues, but duly paid they have been.

There may be more to be said on this story, as I am still not entirely satisfied with matters but that will be something I take up with ever attentive and brilliant legal team.”

Chris’ lawyer, John Spyrou of Pinder Reaux, himself subjected to one of Peter Reynolds’ polite, well-considered blogposts, was also fairly, if more conservatively, pleased:

“Having acted for Chris since early 2013 in this matter, I am extremely pleased that he has now recovered much of the funds that he spent defending a suite of proceedings which were dismissed by the Court at each substantive juncture.

 Orders of the Courts, in particular the High Court, have wide reaching powers and should never be ignored.”

 In total, Peter Reynolds spent over £50,000 on taking us all to court – was it worth it?

Did it benefit the cannabis consumer that he claims to so vigorously exert himself on behalf of?

Did it benefit himself, down a substantial chunk of his inheritance and alleging to have PTSD as consequence of his bombastic, self-aggrandising campaign against all who questioned him and their highly unimpressed response?

You be the judge.  The judges, though, have made themselves pretty clear (ahem) on the matter.

 

On the book

I promised a long time ago that I was planning book on this bizarre time in our lives, and it’s something that I very much want to do. I have been held back from doing for several reasons:

* There was a need for a technology to allow me to access some evidence stored digitally.

However, this technology has now been invented and exists.

* I had neither the time nor the inclination to wallow in the mind of Peter Reynolds any further when I had other far more interesting and pressing concerns. In the last three years, I finished my degree, was ordained as an interfaith minister, and spent a year abroad. I think it’s essential to recognise what is and is not important and writing a very niche book about my interactions with Peter Reynolds, while amusing, is not important, to anyone.

However, my career has been relatively lucrative, and I am approaching the point that I have the money to pay someone else to do the research that needs doing to make it accessible to people who weren’t there at the time, leaving me to write the fun and interesting bits.

* Thirdly, the story of Peter Reynolds’ involvement in the cannabis community didn’t have an ending – he’s still there, still President (“irrevocable until death”, remember) of CLEAR, though he’s now trying to strong-arm people into joining a new outfit, the Cannabis Trades Association, in the belief that when legalisation comes to the UK, his magic touch will see him finally recognised for the fore-sighted genius he believes himself to be.

However, the fact is that he has now lost a really quite mind-blowing amount of money (imagine what the cannabis movement could have done with £50,000). The fact is that he and CLEAR have been abandoned by even the fools like Derek and Roland willing to overlook appalling behaviour like reporting medical cannabis users to police to feel good about themselves. That and Peter Reynolds’s efforts to create and control a monopoly on CBD canna businesses by falling in with people who are sufficiently unhinged that they have actually been arrested for harassment, no small achievement in our experience – all this implies this story is slowly reaching its conclusion.

Let’s not forget that that happened.

In other, shorter words – the book is happening. I can’t tell you when, I can’t tell you what will be in it, I can’t say much other than, the book is happening, and if you want to know more about it when the time comes, you can sign up here:

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Whitewashed Documentary logo

The Whitewashed documentary on the Chakrabarti Report and antisemitism in the Labour Party was released yesterday. It interviews various people who submitted written testimony to the Chakrabarti inquiry and feel like they were completely ignored.

I did not look up the backgrounds of the people who contributed to this documentary, deliberately, because it does not matter. The statements in the documentary speak for themselves about how British Jews experience antisemitism in the left and how they are treated when they raise it. Their relationship to Israel is a political test I am not going to apply to see whether I should value their arguments or not.

The number one thing I delete people from Facebook for is antisemitism. People have posted memes about Rothchilds controlling national banks, told me that the Rothchilds bought Palestine in 1917, that Jewish businessmen were responsible for increasing food prices in  Germany in the 1930s, accusing me of covering up Israel’s war crimes, compared me to Sonderkommandos, posted pictures of corpses in concentration camps in order to criticise Israel, reposted them deliberately when I said I considered that to be antisemitic, and have complained on being deleted, or banned from my blog, that I just can’t handle “the truth”. That’s stuff I have personally experienced and have screenshots of.

None of those people were on the right. Some of them were Jewish. Antisemitism on the left is a real and constant problem in my life.

What’s worse to me is how people who consider themselves of good politics will turn a blind eye to the experience of British Jews or worse, defend the actions of antisemites like Ken Livingstone or Jackie Walker because “they’re victims of a right-wing conspiracy to smear the left and the Labour Party”. That is true! But it DOESN’T change the fact that what they said WAS antisemitic! If we didn’t tolerate antisemitism from the get-go, if we didn’t let people with a history of antisemitic comments end up in senior Labour party positions in the first place, it wouldn’t be a brickbat to be hurled at the left whenever it is politically most unfortunate.

I invite you to watch the documentary. I invite you to recognise that Jeremy Corbyn has a lifelong record of antiracism but an equally long record of tolerating people who make antisemitic remarks if they did so in the context of Israel/Palestine – Naz Shah, MP for Bradford, had to insist that she be suspended and investigated for antisemitic remarks she had made where Labour head office just wanted to ignore the whole issue. While she was forcing this through, retracting her remarks, and apologising for them, Ken Livingstone was touring television studios saying that she had nothing to apologise for and, btw, Hitler supported Zionism. Jeremy Corbyn’s response was to shove everything off to Shami Chakrabarti and produce this report that did nothing to recognise the real problems that Jewish Labour Party members raised in good faith.

This documentary is an accurate reflection of my experiences of having to deal with antisemitism on the left. Non-Jews just don’t want to know. When I posted a form of this post to Facebook, most of the people who responded to it were Jewish. Another example: I decided not to renew my membership of Momentum after the Jackie Walker debacle, as although she was removed as Vice-Chair, she sits on the Momentum national steering committee TO THIS DAY, but PayPal took my money anyway. I wrote to the main email address for Momentum to explain why I didn’t want to renew my membership and to ask for a refund.I have never received a reply, let alone a refund.

The day the Whitewashed documentary was released, various queer collectives were insisting that a Jewish pride flag could not be displayed at a pride parade in Chicago because it is a symbol of oppression because some people might interpret it to look like the Israeli flag.

This is antisemitism.

The Dyke March has responded to criticism by releasing a statement questioning the motives of the woman wielding the flag and saying the person who asked them to put it away is Jewish, so it can’t be antisemitic.

This is antisemitism. (<-That's by an anti-Zionist Jewish group, btw)

As I said to someone who was of the opinion that antisemitic views and activity comes from only a very small group of people within pro-Palestinian circles – this is true. I have no desire to diminish or silence important solidarity work with and for an oppressed people. But I’m somewhat disinclined to turn up to stuff organised by movements that dismiss antisemitism as just being a problem of a few bad apples. You shouldn’t have antisemitic bad apples knocking around your movement. They should not be there and they should not feel welcome if they are.

But there’s a much, much wider circle of people who will willingly undermine, obscure, and refuse to engage with the experiences of British Jews of antisemitism from those people because they perceive people who identify as Zionists (which 59% of British Jews do) to have no rights to be publicly Jewish without being made to feel constantly uncomfortable over Israel’s political behaviour, to deserve division into “good” or “bad” Jews depending on their political views (Neturei Karta are not a mainstream or authoritative Jewish group just because they look the way you imagine “good” Jews should!), and that it is reasonable for them to be subjected to images of the worst genocidal act in history, perpetrated against their people, metaphorically and literally raised again and again in their faces for political purposes. This is covering up antisemitism, and it is endlessly shocking to me how many people I would call comrade enthusiastically embrace such tactics and other people who engage in them.

The Labour Party has a problem with antisemitism. If it didn’t, there wouldn’t have been an inquiry in the first place. If you don’t accept the Labour Party has a problem with antisemitism, you are implying that the Chakrabarti inquiry was set up to fob off people, mainly British Jews, who think it does. That’s pretty antisemitic.

The left has a problem with antisemitism.  So watch this, and listen, and act.

And if you get through to the end and still think we’re just making it all up, just read the YouTube comments.
Comments have been turned off on this post for that reason.

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