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EX-LABOUR staffer Emilie Oldknow has lost her legal bid to force the party to say who leaked its internal report into the handling of allegations of anti-semitism.
In a ruling in the High Court in London today, Ms Justice Tipples refused Ms Oldknow’s application for an order forcing Labour to disclose who the party “reasonably believes” was responsible for the leak.
At a remote hearing last week, five anonymous individuals who deny any responsibility for the leak and who are supported by the trade union Unite, attempted to intervene in the Ms Oldknow’s 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, argued that 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.
An 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.
The internal investigation carried out in the final months of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership concluded that “factional opposition” towards the former leader had contributed to “a litany of mistakes” hindering efforts to tackle the crisis.
Ms Oldknow, Labour’s former director of governance, was quoted making derogatory personal remarks about members of the leader’s office. She was seeking to bring claims for defamation and misuse of private information.
But 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 that there was no certainty that the information sought would lead to the identification of the wrongdoer or wrongdoers and that there was “a real risk that the order sought by the claimant will reveal the names of innocent persons.”
She warned 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.”
Ms 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.”
Permission to appeal against the ruling was refused, but Ms Oldknow can still apply directly to the Court of Appeal.
She was ordered to pay Labour’s legal costs and also some of Unite’s legal fees for making written submissions on her application.
Unite welcomed the ruling and said: “The principles of confidentiality are vital for workers to have confidence in the workplace.”
Ms Oldknow’s solicitor, Mark Lewis, said: “We were surprised by the outcome, but the case is far from over.”
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