Arron Banks’ lawsuit against reporter a freedom of speech matter, court hears

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Carole Cadwalladr’s team sets out defence in first day of libel trial brought by Leave.EU funder

The libel action brought by the multimillionaire Brexit backer Arron Banks against the Observer and Guardian journalist Carole Cadwalladr should concern “anyone who cares about freedom of speech in this country”, a court has been told.

Banks, who funded the pro-Brexit Leave.EU campaign group has brought a defamation action against Cadwalladr over two instances – one in a Ted Talk and one in a tweet – in which she said the businessman was lying about his relationship with the Russian state.

The digital, culture, media and sport committee had found that he had misled parliament in respect of his relationship with Russian officials and had sought to hide the same.

There had been widespread publicity about Banks’s relationship with the Russian state and “his dishonesty and prevarication in respect of that relationship”.

Leave.EU and Banks had been the subject of enforcement action by both the Electoral Commission (EC) and the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in relation to their activities during the referendum campaign.

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