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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
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A member of staff wrote an email making some flase

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A member of staff wrote an email making some flase allegations against me. The emial was copied to my manager and an general mail box of a trade union. Given the allegations are false do I have grounds to sue for libel?
This is the email. The memeber of staff os clearly upset and has a bit of a rant. Is there anything in here that could constitte libel? Particularly the paragrpaph near trhe end where I am accused of acting out of pure malice?
Dear *****
Thank you for your reply. I am not surprised that once again you are manipulating the truth, nor that you are so careless in not getting your facts right in your attempt to discredit me. What does surprise me is the sheer arrogance with which you do it.
Yes, I agree that it is regrettable that I raised a perfectly legitimate question at the Team meeting involving the absence of my name in the team report. Was it a secret? Did you think I wouldn’t find out? Yes I raised it then because I needed witnesses because I do not have any confidence in anything you say to me. Again and again having private conversations with you has turned out to be of little worth, since you appear at best to be reluctant to stand by the things you say to me in private and at worst to claim I said or did something I didn’t do. The email trail last week where I asked you for clarification is a recent example in particular: ‘Phil, I am comfortable with what I have said to you verbally and in email.’ I feel that only written communication can safe guard my position which I fear is greatly under threat from you and your clique of co-conspirators.
I will now, address a number of inaccuracies in your reply.
Performance: These are the statements that Wendy made in response to my question about working from home:
‘we do need to formally review performance with you, but in view of your very recent return to work, …’; ‘Had it not been for your illness, we would by now have formally reviewed your performance with you,’
This does not suggest to me that she is referring to the half yearly review, which she could easily have done had she meant that. Maybe she can clarify what she meant?
At no time have you told me this year that you have been unhappy with my work, frustrated about data issues yes, (but responsibility for data does not reside with me.) So I cannot see why you say ‘As you know, we had been discussing your performance at 1:2:1’s before you became ill. I documented the performance review in February if you wish to see it.’ Yes I am keen to see what you have concocted ex post to suit your case. Please forward this to me asap.
In our meeting of 20 June you claimed that I caused the Redeemed work to miss its deadline and that this was the reason for not allowing me to work from home. Let me be clear, you are singling me out regarding working from home as other analysts in GI, Sarah and Nigel all work from home when it suits them. You also claim in your email below ‘After you became ill in April I had to reallocate the Redeemed project between your colleagues’. Both these claims are untrue. Firstly, the first and final drafts of the Redeemed project were written on or around 13 May; you moved me to work on the AVM on 15 March, long before I went off sick on 20 April.
To refresh your memory, I ran the so called AVM models for two weeks to help Sarah meet her deadline of the end of March. From the beginning of April you switched me again to work on the so called project: ‘redeemed reason’, where I was under instruction to type out in full every comment made by customers as their motivation for taking ER, and to send the text to Andrada Butnaru for her to carry out text mining. This was menial work completely unsuitable for someone with even a degree never mind a PhD, but I didn’t complain because you had told me you would make the job so boring for me that I would leave, so yes you kept your word there! So, I was working on this work, up to the time I went off sick, not the Redeemed work as you claim.
Re AVM: The AVM model originated with me. It was my work that convinced Craig Colton to award the task to the team. You took me off that task at the beginning of October after I applied for a promotion in your team and you turned down my application. You claimed at the time that this was due to a lack of work in the team, that my colleagues had concerns about my statistics, that Sarah had to double check my work and that you needed to give it to your best analyst, oh and that I would probably get it back very soon as Sarah had to work on the BPA project. FYI, (as you are not an analyst) Sarah’s work builds on my original work. The more recent contribution which occurred from 15 March was where I ran some of her models in Emblem, cut and pasted, results etc., all of which did contribute to the report and the project, so I should be included in the list of collaborators.
Redeemed Modelling:
You state: ‘Last week I said that your were responsible for Redeemed project. That certainly was the case.’
Please refer to the attached document that describes the project and my involvement. This work you claimed would be closely supervised by my colleagues to train me to use Emblem and report in the way that is expected at Aviva (they would hold your hand you said). Unfortunately, this was a conversation with you where I don’t have any evidence that you said this and I’m sure you’ll deny it. It was following this early work that the various issues arose from the modelling Finance had been doing that then led to all the additional work. So your statement ‘What you delivered always left questions that you struggled to answer’ is untrue, it didn’t leave questions it generated them. Your statement ‘I think you were responsible for the project failing at that time because you took too long and didn’t take advice from colleagues..’ is again nonsense I did take advice from colleagues I had numerous team meetings with them and carried out lots of experimental modelling at their request (even some for you if you recall, work that Nigel described as leading us into a side-track), but you are right not all this work ended up in the final report (the report cannot describe everything) but it was nevertheless important in helping us to understand the issues and to find solutions. You were very happy with the collaboration at the time.
It wasn’t until March that Nigel tried to make me the scape goat over the length of time the project had taken, so I fail to see how you could possibly have mentioned to me in our February 1:1 that I was not performing. In response to Nigel’s attempt to implicate me I wrote to him defending myself pointing out that I was working under his direction, running models he requested that ate up time. Funny that he has never replied to that email.
These following statements you make are pretty damming, and in light of all the other erroneous statements you have made I challenge you to produce evidence to support your claims:
‘It quickly became apparent that they needed to re work all that you had done. In effect they started from scratch on this model’
‘when it came to the write up, your colleagues didn’t feel that you deserved the credit for the final outcome.’
On my part with regard to the first of these statements, I can show that the results published in the draft are the same as those I produced. In addition I have a statement from Helen Munzer dated 21 June in response to my question about what she needed to do to finish of the project; ‘ I mostly just used what you had already put together..’ Can you reconcile Helen’s statement with yours?
With regard to the second of these statements, Sarah stated at the Team meeting on Friday in front of witnesses that one reason for excluding me was because ‘she had been excluded from a report that Linford had written whilst he was in the team.’ Hardly an unbiased or legitimate reason for excluding me, although this does reflect the atmosphere within which I have been working since I joined the team. (She never liked Linford and hasn’t held herself back in telling me so.) You said on more than one occasion that ‘Sarah doesn’t like anyone’ you once went as far as saying that ‘she hates you (referring to me)’. Your comments that I don’t respect my colleagues in my annual review are hurtful and untrue and you know it. I went to you when Nigel was going to use my work at the GI seminar and you supported me, only to go behind my back and deny it. May I remind you of what you said to me ‘You may be the best player in the World, but if you join a team and the other players don’t want to pass the ball to you, then you have to get out of the team’ how true that is of a cosy clique that watches each other’s back and will do anything to discredit those it cannot accept!
Referring to the second statement, if this statement is true why was my name included in an earlier draft by my colleagues? I put it to you that you overruled the team out of pure malice against me. Yes, pure malice, you’ve had a problem with me since the day that Craig Colton asked to see me to discuss my model. You felt threatened; after all you were out of the picture at the Garage, as Wendy put it, (something like) unsure if you had a job to come back to. It is this malice that you have repeatedly directed towards me, trying to trip me up at every opportunity, pretending to be nice when Wendy is listening, giving me menial tasks, purposefully making things vague, and treating me like a scape goat, all in an effort to make me leave. You even claimed I had time off work due to stress!
‘Since you returned to work last week it seems to me that you have not yet fully settled in. I have given you a project that does not have the stresses of a looming deadline to complete by. This should be ideal for the period of your rehabilitation. I would recommend that you follow the project plan, take the advice of experienced colleagues and concentrate on getting back to good health. Aviva is doing all it can to help you through this difficult period of your life.’
Funnily enough on my return neither you nor Sarah welcomed me back. Instead you offered to bring forward my holiday entitlement so I could go home. (I’m still waiting for an explanation for this from Wendy), all in all hardly a conducive atmosphere to helping me through this difficult period of my life!
I look forward to your reply to the various questions I have posed here.

Hello, my name is***** am a qualified lawyer and it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today.

Have you raised a grievance in relation to this at all?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
No. The member of staff has raised a grivance against me.

OK thank you, ***** ***** it with me. I am in court today so will prepare my advice during the day and get back to you at the earliest opportunity. There is no need to wait here as you will receive an email when I have responded. Thank you.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Its the fact that she copied this to other people...people in the union who I dont know. She just used a generic mail box for Unite

Thanks. Whilst this may appear to be a potential case of defamation (this includes libel if it is in written form, or slander if it is in oral form), such claims are extremely difficult to pursue. Many people are intent on suing for defamation without having any appreciation of the law behind them, so I will try and clear things up for you now.

First of all, certain conditions must be met for the statement to be classified as defamatory. These are:

1. The statement has to be untrue.

2. It must directly identify the complainant.

3. It must have been published, usually communicated to at least another person.

4. It must be in a form of words, which would tend to lower the claimant in the estimation of ‘right thinking members of society generally', expose the claimant to hatred, contempt or ridicule, or cause the claimant to be shunned or avoided.

5. Its publication has caused or is likely to cause serious harm to the reputation of the claimant.

Whilst it may be easy to prove that defamation has occurred, the legal process of pursuing such a claim is extremely complex and expensive. As this goes through the High Court, you would need the professional help of specialist defamation solicitors and the costs are undoubtedly going to run into the thousands right at the outset. Also there is no legal aid available for such claims so the complainant must fund these personally. So when you hear about defamation claims being made, these are usually pursued by big corporations or celebrities who have a public image to protect.

You must also consider whether the party alleged of making the defamatory statement can defend the claim. Even if you satisfy the criteria to prove the statement was defamatory it could be defended on a number of grounds, including by providing evidence that the statement was substantially true or an honest opinion.

There is of course nothing stopping you from contacting the other party and threatening them that what they have done amounts to defamation and that you will consider pursuing the matter further if they do not retract their statement. This could prompt them to reconsider their position, but I would not recommend that you actually proceed with a claim for defamation due to the issues highlighted above.

Instead this should be dealt with via the formal grievance procedure. The person may have raised a grievance against you but in light of what has happened you are also able to make a grievance against him. You also have the right to appeal if you are not satisfied with the outcome of the grievance.

I hope this has answered your query. I would be grateful if you could please take a second to leave a positive rating (3, 4 or 5 stars) as that is an important part of our process and recognises the time I have spent assisting you. If you need me to clarify anything before you go - please get back to me on here and I will assist further as best as I can. Thank you

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thank you Ben. You have clarified alot of what I thought I knew about slander and libel. I do not wish to incur £000s pursuing this. However, I do want to know whether on the assumption that I can prove what was said is untrue (which I can), particulalry the paragraph with "pure malice" in it, would I have a case?

well as mentioned the issue is that defamation can be defended if it is a person's honest opinion on the circumstances. If they genuinely thought that you had acted maliciously, even if you had not in reality, that could potentially defeat a defamation claim. So you each have potential grounds to argue your case. Hope this clarifies?

Ben Jones and other Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Ok. Thank you

You are most welcome