Gran’s victory in libel battle over Twitter comment

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A city grandmother threatened with a £100,000 libel action has won her David and Goliath battle against a Qatar businessman.

Lesley Kemp, 55, has been suicidal with worry since the court claim was lodged seven months ago.

A home typist, she had completed £150 of work for Middle Eastern company Resolution Production, run by Mr Kirby Kearns,

When Mr Kearns was late paying the bill – then allegedly demanded bank charges too – Lesley vented her annoyance on Twitter, describing the delay as “disgraceful”.

The simple tweet sparked the libel claim for £50,000, plus up to £50,000 costs. The total could have cost Lesley and her husband Kevin their Greenleys home.

The Citizen reported her plight in April and the story was picked up by national press and television.

Afterwards offers of help flooded in from sympathetic lawyers and legal experts.

“People were amazing,” said Lesley. “I was still in a very black place, to the extent that at times I was even contemplating suicide. But for the first time I didn’t feel I was fighting this enormous battle alone.”

London lawyer Robert Dougans from global law specialists, Bryan Cave, took on Lesley’s case, while barrister Jonathan Price of Ely Place Chambers offered to defend her on a no win no fee basis.

Meanwhile, the Libel Reform Campaign had a whip round to cover her initial £800 court costs.

Mr Kirby, who had sent long and vociferous mail threats to the Citizen via his solicitor, dropped his claim this month – before the matter was due to go to court.

In a public statement he denied he was a ‘libel tourist’ and said his claim was ‘valid and proper’.

He added: “Regrettably I have taken the decision to pull out due to a personal reason and due to the huge advance costs to be paid into court that are being applied for by Mrs Kemp’s legal team.”

Said Lesley: “Words cannot describe the relief I feel and my gratitude towards the people who have helped me. The whole experience affected me terribly. It has been a living hell.”

She has now offered to help other victims in the same situation.

“I know there are other people out there who are representing themselves in libel claims and my thoughts go out to them all,” she said.