Tory MP defamation and discrimination action by disabled activist

  • Post last modified:July 4, 2024
  • Reading time:6 mins read

A disabled campaigner is launching legal action against a former Tory MP for defamation and discrimination.

On 4 July, former Conservative MP Dr Luke Evans is standing for re-election in the constituency seat of Hinckley and Bosworth, in Leicestershire. However, now, disabled activist Helen Timson is filing a claim against the candidate MP in the High Court.

Specifically, Timson will be lodging this for purported libel, discrimination, personal injury, and breaches of her data protection rights.

Seeking support from a Tory MP against the DWP

Disabled campaigner Helen Timson previously took the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to court over third party deductions to benefits. In particular, she challenged the DWP authorising water and energy companies taking money from people’s benefit payments. Reporting on the judicial review at the time, the Canary’s Steve Topple explained how Timson’s water company was making deductions to her benefits without her consent. So, as Topple detailed:

Timson took the department to court over the policy. She said she took on the DWP because:

I found it outrageous that the DWP did not check if we could afford to pay the amount taken, if other debt options were better for us or if the debt was even owed. We certainly weren’t asked if we consented. With a keyboard click a random… employee was allowed to decide what was in our ‘best interests’ without even contacting us.

The Guardian noted that in court, Timson:

argued it was unlawful and immoral that the DWP enabled water and energy firms to draw down up to 25% of a claimant’s monthly benefit income at source without undertaking any form of check with the claimant.

Ultimately Timson won the judicial review against then secretary of state Mel Stride and the DWP. However, the government launched an appeal against the ruling.

It was during this time that she reached out to local MPs for their support against Stride’s decision to appeal the judgement. Specifically, Timson called for their aid in petitioning Stride to drop it.

Firstly, Timson’s constituency MP Edward Argar refused his help. She claims that she repeatedly tried to make an appointment with him, with no success. Eventually, Argar told Timson that his role as government minister prevented him from raising her case in parliament.

As a result, on 20 April 2023, Timson contacted nearby Conservative MP and GP Dr Luke Evans. Timson initially spoke to a staff member in Evans’ constituency office over the phone. It was from this point that Timson claims the problems started.

Disabled campaigner labelled a “security concern”

Following her conversation with Evans’ staff, on 27 April Evans himself sent her an email. Timson described the communication as “threatening”. Specifically, her claim will detail that Evans chastised her conduct over the phone with his member of staff.

In particular, this referred to her raised tone of voice. Timson suffers from a range of mental and physical health conditions. Her disabilities – including complex PTSD and post-surgery problems with her right hand – means she might speak at a raised volume over the phone. This is because Timson’s hands-free technology, as well as stress and anxiety, can unintentionally lead her to raise the volume of her voice.

Moreover, in Evans’ email, Timson says he threatened to escalate matters further.

Timson’s claim will express the enormous stress and anxiety this all caused her. Notably, she feels this implied he might report her to the police. Given his perceived threat, she submitted a Subject Access Request (SAR) to obtain all correspondence he and his staff had exchanged about her.

This was when she found that the staff member she’d spoken to over the phone had labelled her a “security concern”. The staff member had made this aspersion over a series of WhatsApp messages the day she’d contacted his office. What’s more, the SAR revealed that Evans’ staff had circulated this among the offices of fellow Leicestershire MPs.

She sent her pre-action letter detailing these grievances, and requesting a series of remediations. However, Evans did not respond.

Tory MP to go to trial for purported defamation and discrimination

As a result of these interactions, Timson has now submitted her claims against Evans to the High Court.

Dr Luke Evans denies any wrongdoing.

However, Timson’s case will allege that the WhatsApp message characterisation of her as a “security concern” is defamatory.

Alongside this, she will argue that Evans’ office breached her rights under the Equality Act 2010. Specifically, she will say that his staff failed to accommodate her disabilities. Timson is therefore planning to assert that this constitutes direct disability discrimination, and a failure to make reasonable adjustments.

On top of these, Timson will allege that Evans’ office broke the law under the Data Protection Act 2018. In this instance, she will highlight the office’s failure to disclose full WhatsApp message chains in her SAR. As well as this, she will underscore the finding that Evans’ staff shared her personal information to the offices of other MPs, without her consent. She is also looking to claim personal injury on account of the impact the ordeal had on her mental health.

Timson is seeking a formal apology for these alleged harms. She wants to obtain the full information Evans’ office purportedly denied in her SAR. What’s more, she will ask the court to rule that his office rectify what she considers the defamatory statements against her.

Her claim will also ask for a £25,000 donation to charities of her choice.

Feature image via Nature & People – Youtube

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