Councillor faces legal costs after libel case fails

A Waltham Forest councillor must pay £15,000 in court costs after trying to sue a former colleague without offering proper proof.

Councillor Anna Mbachu, 55, who has represented Grove Green ward for Labour since 2006, told the High Court on Wednesday that she had been a victim of libel.

She claimed mental health professional Eze Ihenacho, her former colleague at St Ann’s Hospital, wrote malicious lies about her on social media in 2018.

She said these posts called her a “liar”, a “vile deceptive pig” and someone who “undertakes violence” online. However, her case was thrown out because she failed to show sufficient proof of the posts.

High Court judge Mrs Justice Tipples said the evidence provided, screenshots of the posts forwarded to Mbachu via Whatsapp, failed to comply with a previous court order asking for originals.

She said: “In order to succeed in defamation, the claimant must prove the statement has been published.”

It was also “impossible” to tell what forums or websites some of the the posts appeared on, the judge added.

Mrs Justice Tipples rejected Cllr Mbachu’s request for another six weeks to find an IT expert, who could retrieve the now deleted posts, saying her team had “already had ample time”.

She added: “I’m not satisfied that in those circumstances an adjournment would be in any way productive, in a few weeks time the situation is extremely likely to be the same as it is today.”

The alleged posts were said to appear on various Nigerian community forums as well as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Reddit and Tumblr.

Following the aborted hearing, Ihenacho said: “I’m just flabbergasted, I’ve had to travel from the USA for this case, which has been dragging on since 2018. I’ve had to spend so much money on this case.”

Cllr Mbachu must now pay £15,000 in legal fees to Ihenacho by November 3.

Her libel claim has been dismissed.

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Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter