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Law student sued by lecturer for describing his teaching as a ‘mess’

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Tax law specialist Michael Bjørn Hansen has filed a lawsuit against the student for libel

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A Danish law student has found himself embroiled in a libel legal battle with his university lecturer after reportedly describing his teaching as a “mess”.

Kristian Hegaard, who is a 25-year-old law student at the University of Copenhagen, filed a written complaint about the quality of teaching he was receiving from his tax law lecturer, Michael Bjørn Hansen.

Writing to his course leader, Hegaard — who is active within Danish politics and a staunch campaigner for disabled rights — described Hansen’s teaching as a “mess” and said “he seemed to be unprepared — and does not bring notes”.

According to The Independent, Hegaard also “expressed concerns that he and his fellow students were leaving each class confused about the content.” That’s tax law for you.

But Hansen — who is also a qualified lawyer — has not taken the criticism well.

Claiming Hegaard has made false statements and caused “moral damage”, reports both in Denmark and here in the United Kingdom claim Hansen is now suing the law student for libel.

Defending his decision to take legal action, the tax lecturer said it was a “matter of principle” and would prevent other students making similar complaints in the future.

Speaking to Danish website Universities Avisen, Hansen said:

The key is that there is a complaint of false fact and thus a very unpleasant matter for me.

Describing the 25-year-old’s complaint as a political stunt, Hansen continued:

I would never have raised a lawsuit if the complaint came from a normal student.

Criticising his lecturer’s decision to sue him, Hegaard, who has been studying at the university since 2010, said:

In Denmark it has been called a matter of principle, because it is a question of students’ rights to request improvements within their education or criticise teachers constructively without fearing to be sued for libel. It is also a general question of the reputation of lawyers. When others hear about this case, they think lawyers just sue each other all the time. A lawyer’s role should be to solve disputes, not to start them.

Hegaard — who could be forced to pay up to 2,000 Krone (£230) in damages — is due to appear at Elsinore District Court on 5 September.