Businesswoman is ordered to pay TV anti-bullying campaigner £60,000 after losing libel battle when she branded her a ‘bully and fraud’
- Lisa Johnson, 45, has served as an ambassador for the Bullies Out charity
A businesswoman has been ordered to pay a TV anti-bullying campaigner £60,000 after losing a libel battle for calling her ‘a bully and a fraud’.
Lisa Johnson, 45, serves as an ambassador for the Bullies Out charity alongside running a company that provides online business courses.
She was accused of wrongdoing by Emma Hammond after the pair fell out over the 37-year-old’s refusal to pay for a course she’d signed up with.
In a Facebook post, Mrs Hammond called her a ‘bully and a fraud’, prompting her to sue for libel.
Now she has won a High Court fight after Judge Richard Spearman KC described the post as ‘nasty baseless libels’ and ordered Mrs Hammond never to repeat them.
He also told her to pay £25,000 damages – the maximum he could have awarded – and handed her the £35,000 bill for Mrs Johnson’s lawyers in the case.
Emma Hammond (left) was sued for libel by Lisa Johnson (right) after accusing her of being ‘a bully and a fraud’
Ruling, the judge said Mrs Hammond, who lives on Jersey in the Channel Islands, had agreed to pay for a business coaching programme with Mrs Johnson.
But she did not pay and the two women fell out, with Mrs Hammond then making the offending post on Facebook in May 2022, which began: ‘I got scammed and bullied by an online coach and it traumatised me’.
Mrs Johnson – who lives in Biggleswade, Bedfordshire, with her husband and two children – said the accusation was particularly hurtful because she had been bullied herself as a child and adult.
‘When I saw the post, I felt physically sick and – at first – was worried I had done something wrong and didn’t remember,’ she told the court.
Mrs Hammond said she had been ‘shocked and surprised’ by the post, which prompted trolling from other Facebook users.
‘I spent two days crying, thinking my business was ruined,’ said the mother, who grew her business from nothing to enjoying revenues of more than £4million a year.
In a Facebook post, Mrs Hammond (pictured) called the business coach a ‘bully and a fraud’, prompting her to sue for libel
Her barrister, Gemma McNeil-Walsh, said that only a few days after the post was made, Mrs Hammond had set up her own business selling the same sort of programmes as Mrs Johnson did.
The post was removed within hours by Facebook, but despite spending months trying to get Mrs Hammond to set the record straight and apologise online, she had not responded.
She sued for libel and malicious falsehood and, after Mrs Hammond failed to defend herself, Mrs Johnson won a judgment in her favour in November last year.
She had claimed that the meaning of the body of the post was that she was a ‘dishonest bully’ who ran a ‘scam company’ while using ‘unscrupulous bullying sales tactics.’
The message was posted to 3,000 people and shared on 12 other pages, garnering 600 ‘likes’ or ‘angry face’ emojis and commented on more than 170 times, said her barrister.
Ruling on the damages element of the case this week, Judge Spearman described the comments as ‘nasty baseless libels’ which required the maximum possible damages in the case and an injunction banning any repeat.
Mrs Johnson – who lives in Biggleswade, Bedfordshire, with her husband and two children – said the accusation was particularly hurtful because she had been bullied herself
‘The bullying allegation, in my judgment, is significant here in light of what the claimant says in her evidence about her association with anti-bullying campaigning,’ he said.
It had resulted in Mrs Johnson suffering ‘very significant psychological consequences’ and she ended up taking anti-depressants, he said.
‘She was, entirely understandably, deeply upset by what had happened,’ he continued.
‘The defendant has shown no contrition or remorse, whatsoever. On the undisputed material before me, a substantial award of damages is plainly appropriate.
‘I consider that a sum of £25,000 is an entirely appropriate award in this case. Had the claim not been capped at that level, it might have been that the award would be higher.’
He also ordered Mrs Hammond to foot the £35,000 lawyers’ bills of the case.
In previous interviews, Mrs Johnson told how she grew up on a council estate and was bullied as ‘the poor kid’ after winning a scholarship to a private school.
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