£40,000 dam­ages payout

Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser - - Front Page - COURT RE­PORTER

For­mer Coat­bridge SNP coun­cil­lor Julie McAnulty has won £40,000 in dam­ages from a party ac­tivist who falsely claimed she made a racist re­mark.

Ms McAnulty brought an ac­tion for defama­tion against Sheena McCul­loch af­ter she sent an email to se­nior party fig­ures which later fea­tured in a news­pa­per ar­ti­cle.

She raised an ac­tion seek­ing £100,000 dam­ages against Ms McCul­loch at the Court of Ses­sion in Ed­in­burgh, claim­ing that the com­ments at­trib­uted to her were “false and calum­nious”.

Judge Lord Uist awarded Ms McAnulty the five­fig­ure sum in dam­ages af­ter stat­ing: “I am sat­is­fied that it [ Ms McCul­loch’s email] was ac­ti­vated by mal­ice and ill-will as part of a cam­paign di­rected against the pur­suer [ Ms McAnulty] by the op­pos­ing fac­tion within the lo­cal SNP.”

A for­mer Coat­bridge SNP coun­cil­lor has won £ 40,000 in dam­ages from a party ac­tivist who falsely claimed she made a racist re­mark in an “out­ra­geous” li­bel.

Julie McAnulty brought an ac­tion for defama­tion against Sheena McCul­loch af­ter she sent an email to se­nior party fig­ures which later fea­tured in a news­pa­per ar­ti­cle.

Ms McCul­loch claimed in the mes­sage that, dur­ing a car jour­ney, Ms McAnulty had asked for her view on trou­ble in a North La­nark­shire branch.

She wrote: “Dur­ing this dis­cus­sion, Julie made a com­ment which I found un­ac­cept­able.

“She asked if I agreed with her that it was, in her words ‘the Pakis’ that were caus­ing the prob­lems lo­cally and that we needed to get rid of them out of the party.”

She added: “I out­lined im­me­di­ately that I was not happy with her com­ment as I know and re­spect many Mus­lim mem­bers lo­cally.”

Ms McAnulty, of Coat­bridge, raised an ac­tion seek­ing £100,000 dam­ages against Ms McCul­loch at the Court of Ses­sion in Ed­in­burgh, claim­ing that the com­ments at­trib­uted to her were “false and calum­nious”.

Ms McCul­loch claimed that the con­tent of the email she sent to SNP com­pli­ance man­ager Ian McCann, with oth­ers copied in, was es­sen­tially true.

But a judge has ruled that he was sat­is­fied that the state­ment made by Ms McCul­loch at­tribut­ing the al­leged com­ments to Ms McAnulty was false.

Lord Uist said: “I am sat­is­fied that it was ac­ti­vated by mal­ice and ill-will as part of a cam­paign di­rected against the pur­suer [Ms McAnulty] by the op­pos­ing fac­tion within the lo­cal SNP.

“The false al­le­ga­tion of racism against the pur­suer was ex­tremely se­ri­ous in na­ture and caused her great dis­tress. when the re­mark was made dur­ing cam­paign­ing for a coun­cil by-elec­tion in July 2015.

Ms McAnulty said she and Ms McCul­loch were asked to go with can­di­date Steven Bon­nar to carry out can­vass­ing. Mr Bon­nar said Ms McAnulty did not make any racist com­ment in the course of the re­turn jour­ney at View­park and said he would have been out­raged if she had.

Lord Uist said he re­garded Mr Bon­nar as an en­tirely hon­est and re­li­able wit­ness, say­ing: “He had no axe to grind and no rea­son what­so­ever to lie. He was a guile­less green­horn in the world of lo­cal politics, un­used to its schem­ing machi­na­tions.”

Lord Uist re­stricted the award of dam­ages to £40,000 af­ter con­clud­ing that Ms McCul­loch could not be held re­spon­si­ble for the pub­li­ca­tion of the li­bel be­yond the email she sent which was marked “con­fi­den­tial” and cir­cu­lated to a re­stricted num­ber of peo­ple in the SNP.

Ms McAnulty, who joined the party in 2010 and be­came a coun­cil­lor two years later, was re­moved from a list of pos­si­ble MSPs and de­s­e­lected as a coun­cil can­di­date be­fore re­sign­ing from the party last year.

Com­ment­ing on the Court of Ses­sion’s ver­dict, North La­nark­shire Coun­cil de­pute leader, Paul Kelly, said: “The judge­ment is a damn­ing in­dict­ment of North La­nark­shire SNP.

“The pub­lic will be rightly dis­gusted to hear of SNP elected mem­bers’ in­volve­ment in this un­founded al­le­ga­tion of racism, which was part of a smear cam­paign which ended Julie McAnulty’s po­lit­i­cal ca­reer.

“It is clear that SNP head­quar­ters should im­me­di­ately con­duct a full in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the elected mem­bers who played their part in this scan­dal.

“We be­lieve it is only right that Al­lan Stubbs should step down from his po­si­tion as SNP busi­ness man­ager un­til that in­ves­ti­ga­tion is con­cluded.”

Court win Julie McAnulty

Un­founded al­le­ga­tion Lord Uist awarded Ms McAnulty £40,000

In­ves­ti­ga­tion Mr Kelly has called for im­me­di­ate ac­tion from the SNP

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