High Court tells Daniel Bennett to reveal who was behind allegedly defamatory @arrytuttle tweets
A former Doughty Street Chambers barrister linked to an anonymous Twitter account heavily critical of fellow lawyers has been ordered to hand over deleted tweets and reveal whether anyone else had access to the account.
The High Court has told Daniel Bennett to hand over information about the now dormant @arrytuttle Twitter account to several high-profile figures also criticised by the account who want to sue whoever is behind it. The claimants include Countdown TV presenter Rachel Riley and actress Tracy Ann Oberman.
The case goes back to heated online disputes during Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership over anti-semitism in the Labour Party. Riley, Oberman and other high-profile members of the Jewish community – including barristers such as Simon Myerson QC and Adam Wagner – contended that anti-semitism was a serious problem in the party.
The @arrytuttle account took the opposite side of the argument, regularly trolling all of the above. Riley and Oberman say the tweets amounted to libel and harassment.
In August 2019, a “detective tweeter” (in the words of the High Court) pieced together identifying information from some of @arrytuttle’s tweets and outed Bennett as the author. Bennett, who is also Jewish, resigned from Doughty Street soon afterwards but reportedly claimed that “many people” were involved with the account, not just him.
But Riley & Co “strongly suspect that Mr Bennett is Harry Tuttle“. They applied for a Norwich Pharmacal order to force him to give up the identities of anyone else who used the account. The application also sought copies of some tweets that they don’t have screenshots of.
Bennett now “admits responsibility” for the @arrytuttle account and any “legal liability” for it, according to statements given to the High Court. But he refused to say whether he actually wrote all the allegedly defamatory tweets.
Mr Justice Saini found that accepting liability wasn’t the point. He said that “the claimants are entitled to sue all wrongdoers”, pointing out that “disclosure of the identity of the author of the tweets is plainly necessary if one is to sue that person”.
He also described Bennett’s argument that the claimants hadn’t identified all the deleted tweets they want to sue over as “highly unmeritorious”, given that Bennett has the only copies.
The judge ordered that Riley and another claimant:
“[A]re entitled to information stating who used and had access to the Harry Tuttle Twitter account between March 2018 and 9 July 2019 (when it became dormant). This information must specifically disclose the identity of the person or persons posting tweets on the said account referring to Mr Collier and Ms Riley or replying to these claimants.”
The order also says that “Bennett will be directed to disclose all tweets on the Harry Tuttle Twitter account in the period March 2018 to 9 July 2019 which referred to these claimants”.
The claimants are represented by Mark Lewis of Patron Law, who has taken on a number of high-profile defamation cases.
In one ongoing case, Riley and Oberman are suing barrister Jane Heybroek for retweeting an article critical of their alleged behaviour on Twitter while discussing anti-semitism in the Labour Party. In another, Riley is taking on Laura Murray, a former top aide to Jeremy Corbyn.
In still another of Lewis’s cases, the Labour Party itself is reportedly poised to offer a settlement after criticising former members of staff who spoke to a BBC Panorama documentary about their experience of anti-Jewish prejudice in the party.