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Legal Judgement Given Today In Favour Of Simon Parkes.

Neutral Citation Number: [2023] EWHC 794 (KB)

Case No: QB-2020-003528

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE

KING'S BENCH DIVISION

MEDIA AND COMMUNICATIONS LIST

Royal Courts of Justice

Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

Date: 4 April 2023

Before :

THE HONOURABLE MR JUSTICE MURRAY

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Between :

SIMON BARD PARKES Claimant

- and -

(1) TOBY HALL

(2) STEPHEN JOHN EARNSHAW

(also known as AMORA STEVE MELCHIZADEK) Defendants

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


Hearing date: 5 October 2022

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Approved Judgment


This judgment was handed down remotely by circulation to the parties’ representatives by

email and release to The National Archives. The date and time for hand-down are deemed to

be 4 April 2023 at 10:30 am.



44. Commenting on the various allegations made against Mr Parkes in the eleven

publications for which Mr Earnshaw is liable under the Nicol Order, including the

detailed allegations in the Solemn Statement, the skeleton argument for Mr Parkes

says at paragraph 5.2:

“As to the seriousness of the allegations, they are some of the

gravest allegations which could be made and include

[allegations of] serious criminal behaviour for which a person

could be imprisoned for life if guilty. They are also the type of

allegations which are likely to have a severe impact on the

reputation of the claimant in every sphere of his life.”


45. Having carefully reviewed the publications, I find that there is no hyperbole in the

statement from the claimant’s skeleton argument that I have just quoted. The

allegations are of the utmost seriousness. I also note that Mr Hall, further to the

Tomlin Order, has publicly apologised to Mr Parkes, accepting in his public apology

that the allegations were untrue, seriously harmful, and included some intrusive

speculation into Mr Parkes’s private life.


46. The level of damages for defamation of this degree of seriousness, in relation to

which there is no apology from Mr Earnshaw and, it appears, no prospect of an

apology, should reflect the baselessness of the allegations made in the defamatory

publications and therefore serve to vindicate Mr Parkes.


47. In terms of potential comparators, Mr Rudman acknowledged during this submissions

that these can only be used with caution, given that each case of defamation is unique

and heavily turns on its own facts, but he urged me to have regard to the awards made

in the following cases: Triad Group plc v Makar [2020] EWHC 306 (QB); Turley v

Unite the Union [2019] EWHC 3547 (QB); Richard v BBC; Monir v Wood [2018]

EWHC 3525 (QB); and ZAM v CFW. Each of those cases involved awards

considerably in excess of the award now sought by Mr Parkes in this case, namely,

£25,000. Mr Parkes states that he seeks an award at this level (which he considers to

be conservative in light of the facts of, and evidence supporting, the claim), because it

is unlikely that he will be able to recover the award against Mr Earnshaw in any

event, not only because of Mr Earnshaw claims to be impecunious, but also because

Mr Parkes is no longer in communication with Mr Earnshaw and does not know his

whereabouts.


48. In terms of the extent of publication, on Mr Parkes’s pleaded case:

i) the Third Publication, in the form of an email with the Solemn Statement

attached, went to “numerous” recipients, although it cannot be said precisely

how many, and it is reasonable to assume that a substantial portion of the

recipients would have opened and read the attachment;

THE HONOURABLE MR JUSTICE MURRAY

Approved Judgment

Parkes v Hall

ii) the Fourth to Twelfth Publications, which were videos, were at the time of

issue of the claim viewed at least 536 times, according to Mr Parkes’s estimate

(based on screenshots he had taken), being 434 views on YouTube and 102

views on Brighteon; and

iii) the Thirteenth Publication, which was an email, was sent to, most likely, the

entire Connecting Consciousness mailing list, comprised of thousands of

names, with embedded hyperlinks to the Brighteon videos.


49. The extent of publication beyond the above baseline is not possible to estimate with

precision, but, for example, in relation to the videos there were likely to have been

further views between when the screenshots were taken and the videos were taken

down, and one must also take into account the expansion of publication via the

“percolation” effect: see Barron v Vines at [21(3)(d)].


50. I accept, particularly in light of the gravity of the allegations and their likely impact

on Mr Parkes’s reputation, that the evidence shows publication to a significant extent,

extending to hundreds, if not thousands, of publishees, warranting a substantial

damages award.


51. It is clear from the evidence, and inherent in the nature of the allegations, and the

manner in which they have been made, that they will have been very distressing for

Mr Parkes and will also have affected and distressed his family, including his

daughters and his ex-wives, with Mr Earnshaw having contacted them on Facebook,

asking highly personal and offensive questions, attacking Mr Parkes’s character, and

alleging that he is a rapist. The negative effect of this intrusion will have been

magnified by its having, for example, for Mr Parkes’s daughters, come “out of the

blue”.


52. Mr Parkes also discusses the impact of the defamatory publications on Connecting

Consciousness, which Mr Parkes said loses members every times the videos

resurface. Mr Parkes estimated that in the three weeks before his witness statement of

28 September 2022, Connecting Consciousness had lost 300-400 members,

specifically mentioning the videos as a reason. The videos have reappeared from time

to time since the Nicol Order, leading Mr Parkes to have to take legal steps to have

them removed. These latest videos have tens of thousands of views. Mr Parkes has

found that whenever he holds a meeting for Connecting Consciousness, or attends a

talk or other event, he is required to address the videos and explain that the allegations

are all false. There is, therefore, a substantial and distressing on-going effect of the

videos on Mr Parkes.


53. In her witness statement dated 28 September 2022, Mrs Parkes the impact of the

videos published by the defendants on her husband and herself, as well as the impact

on Connecting Consciousness, which she set up with Mr Parkes. She notes that the

videos have been sent to social media influencers with a large online following. She

describes her frustration that a year after the Nicol Order, they continue to feel the

negative effect of these videos on Connecting Consciousness, which is an

organisation that was set up in order to “[provide] a way for people to support each

other”.

THE HONOURABLE MR JUSTICE MURRAY

Approved Judgment

Parkes v Hall


54. In relation to elements of aggravation, Mr Parkes relies on unreasonable conduct by

Mr Earnshaw, including:

i) the publication of the Fourth to the Thirteenth Publications all following Mr

Parkes’s letter before action;

ii) Mr Earnshaw’s intrusive investigation into Mr Parkes’s private life;

iii) Mr Earnshaw’s failure to grapple with the law and facts of these proceedings,

failure to comply with case management orders, and use of abusive tactics

such as inundating Mr Parkes with extensive irrelevant documentation; and

iv) apparent cooperation in the dissemination of new videos that contain clips of

the original videos and rely heavily on the Solemn Statement.


55. In relation to Mr Earnshaw’s conduct of these proceedings, Mr Parkes submitted that

Mr Earnshaw did so in a manner intended to cause Mr Parkes as much harm as

possible, including:

i) alleging without evidence that Mr Parkes, his legal representatives, and

process servers had “criminally forged” documents in order “to inhibit the

process of my defence”, thereby causing Mr Parkes additional cost, including

the need to obtain a further witness statement from his process server to

debunk Mr Earnshaw’s allegations;

ii) abusing process by, for example, sending documents in an envelope marked

“Confidential” to Master Dagnall before a hearing on 8 March 2021 without

notifying Mr Parkes, much less providing him with copies (Master Dagnall

having destroyed the confidential envelope and its contents without reading

them, as noted in his order dated 8 March 2021); and

iii) as revealed by various documents provided by Mr Earnshaw during the course

of this litigation, conducting a campaign against Mr Parkes, for example, a

document evidencing a plan between Mr Hall and Mr Earnshaw to “take him

[Mr Parkes] down” with a concerted campaign between the BBC and London

Trading Standards.


56. I consider that, in addition to the harassing nature of each publication, there is

harassment in the persistent campaign of publication of videos, including republication

of the videos to Brighteon when the YouTube videos were taken down,

and drawing attention to the videos via email through the Thirteenth Publication,

which included hyperlinks to the Brighteon videos. I have already described the ongoing

effect of this campaign, which is relevant to the harassing effect of

Mr Earnshaw’s campaign against Mr Parkes, regardless of whether Mr Earnshaw is

actually involved in some way in the reappearance of the videos and/or in the

publication of new videos including excerpts from the original videos and relying on

the Solemn Statement. In my view, this is a serious case of on-line harassment that

justifies an award in the upper Vento band.


57. Having regard to all of the foregoing, including Mr Parkes’s recovery of

compensation from Mr Hall further to the settlement embodied in the Tomlin Order, I

THE HONOURABLE MR JUSTICE MURRAY

Approved Judgment

Parkes v Hall

consider that an appropriate compendious award of general damages for the different

heads of damage, avoiding double-counting, taking into account the relevant

aggravating factors, and noting that Mr Earnshaw has provided no evidence of

relevant mitigation, is £35,000. An award at this level will also stand as a sum

sufficient to demonstrate vindication of Mr Parkes.


58. I note that an award of £35,000 is higher than the £25,000 sought by Mr Parkes, but

that is my assessment of the proper level of the award in light of the relevant

principles. I am not bound by Mr Parkes’s own assessment of the correct level. I also

do not consider the fact that Mr Earnshaw is impecunious (if that is true) or that he

cannot be located by Mr Parkes to be relevant to the determination of the appropriate

level of general damages.


Injunction


59. I also consider that I should exercise my discretion to grant injunctive relief to

Mr Parkes, by prohibiting Mr Earnshaw from making any further publications about

Mr Parkes, or further publishing Mr Parkes’s private information or personal data,

and/or pursuing any conduct that amounts to harassment of Mr Parkes or any

individual associated with him, including any member of his family. I will also order

that Mr Earnshaw must delete any copies in his possession or control of the nine

videos comprising the Fourth to Twelfth Publications.


60. It is just and proportionate to make this order against Mr Earnshaw in light of his ongoing

conduct during his campaign of harassment against Mr Parkes, his unreasonable

and abusive conduct of these proceedings while he was still engaged in them, the

on-going effect of the eleven defamatory publications for which he is liable (in

particular, the nine videos and the Solemn Statement), and his failure to offer an

apology or show any remorse for the baseless allegations he has made against

Mr Parkes.

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