£40,000 damages payout
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