Leave.eu campaign pays damages to Labour MP over libellous ‘grooming gang’ slur

Naz Shah says ‘horrendous’ attack led to abuse and death threats

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Thursday 01 October 2020 11:04 BST
Naz Shah
Naz Shah (PA)

The Leave.eu campaign has apologised to a Labour MP and paid damages for libel after falsely branding her a “grooming gangs apologist”.

Bradford West MP Naz Shah welcomed the apology for the “horrendous” allegation and said she had suffered abuse and death threats because of the slur.

The false allegation was published in social media posts by Leave.EU following Jeremy Corbyn’s resignation as Labour leader last December, offering fictional odds on his potential successor.

In a statement issued today, the pro-Brexit group admitted it’s claim was “ill-judged and untrue”.

“While the publication had been intended to be satirical, we appreciate that it was ill-judged and untrue,” said the group.

“We accept that Ms Shah is not an ‘apologist’ for grooming gangs but is a vociferous campaigner for victims of grooming gangs.

“We apologise for the distress caused by the post and have paid Ms Shah damages for libel.”

In response, Ms Shah said: “The allegation of me being a grooming apologist has been horrendous.

“The fact they’ve accepted that I’m a vociferous campaigner against grooming is important to me.

“This is the kind of stuff that’s used against people in public life and other MPs.

“It’s just not fair. It’s just not right for it to happen.”

She added: “I’m one of the most abused MPs on Twitter because of this allegation. It’s horrible, it’s really horrible.”

Ms Shah said the reaction to the post had affected her family, with her children asking: “Mum, why do you get so much hate, why do people hate you so much?”

She said: “It literally has been threats to my life at times.”

Ms Shah said the post hurt her because she had never “shied away” from the issue of grooming gangs and was campaigning against perpetrators long before she was elected as an MP in 2015.

She said: “Islamic communities are absolutely appalled by it . People I talk to are appalled by it.

“I’m on record talking about, I’ve talked about it on Asian media channels and to the community. It’s not something I’ve shied away from at all and I don’t intend to in the future.”

Ms Shah said she was unable to discuss the size of the settlement, saying: “I welcome the apology and just want to draw a line under it and get on.”

She added: “I’m not going to let a tweet that was up there for eight minutes, which was removed, define my life and my politics."

Ms Shah was reported to have been seeking damages of up to £50,000 and costs in a legal action against Leave.eu, the pro-Brexit campaign founded by businessmen Arron Banks and Richard Tice.

The post was taken down shortly after its publication, but it understood to have already been shared thousands of times.

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