On 24th January at the Supreme Court, Nicola Stocker will appeal a Court of Appeal judgment upholding the decision of Mr Justice Mitting’s which ruled in favour of her ex-husband, Ronald Stocker’s defamation claim against her.
In a Facebook exchange with her ex-husband’s partner, Nicola posted that Ronald Stocker had previously ‘tried to strangle’ her. Mr Justice Mitting determined during the libel hearing that ‘tried to strangle’ implied an attempt to kill by strangulation. He found that Mr Stocker “did in temper attempt to silence her forcibly by placing one hand on her mouth and the other on her upper neck under her chin to hold her head still”, causing the red marks that were visible to the police officers who arrested him. However, as “his intention was to silence, not to kill” he ruled that her comment incorrectly presented him as a ‘dangerous and thoroughly disreputable man’ and as such it was libellous. He indicated that £5000 damages plus legal costs would be payable. Following an unsuccessful appeal to the Court of Appeal, the legal costs she must pay to date are in excess of £200,000.
In February 2018, Nicola lost her appeal against the ruling, The Rt Hon. Lady Justice Sharp stating that ’the use of dictionaries does not form part of the process of determining the natural and ordinary meaning of words… no harm was done in this case… the judge’s ultimate reasoning, not dependent on dictionaries, was sound’.
On Thursday, David Price QC will argue that both Mr Justice Mitting and the Court of Appeal, erred in determining the meaning of the wording.
Following a packed out public meeting hosted by the Centre for Women’s Justice, domestic charities and concerned individuals will be protesting outside the supreme court in support of Nicola’s appeal.
Harriet Wistrich, director of Centre for Women’s Justice, stated
“This case has chilling implications for women who speak out about male violence. The judgment reveals a shocking ignorance amongst members of the judiciary of the realities of domestic violence. The fact that Mr Stocker was arrested and red marks were observed by the police on the victim’s neck is a serious warning of escalation of violence regardless of whether he had any intent to kill. In fact, strangulation is a warning marker in standardised police risk assessments. We are appalled that a woman speaking out about an accepted incident of domestic violence has been silenced and severely financially penalised.”
Karen Ingala Smith, CEO of nia and co-founder of the Femicide Census said
"We know from the Femicide Census that between 2009 and 2017, 285 women were killed though strangulation, of which 188 women were strangled to death by a current or former partner, that’s an average of one woman strangled to death every two weeks. It is the second most common method used to kill women in the UK.
Accidentally causing death by applying pressure to the vagus nerve in the neck has also been used successfully as a defence against a murder charge. Whether used as a means to kill, frighten and/or control women strangulation is extremely dangerous and abusive. Anything that undermines the seriousness of strangulation, especially when sanctioned in law, is a green-light for men who abuse women. "
There will be a public protest outside the Supreme Court from 9.30am.
Nicola Stocker is represented by David Price QC
The original judgement can be read here
Associated press : 'Women who allege abuse face terrifying libel threats,This is a disaster', The Guardian, 23rd January 2019.