Jules on the mic.
A retired solicitor who went on the warpath when a government worker talked about her mental health has been cleared of harassment.
Julian Saunders made his "abrasive" comments about Dr Lisa McNally, the Director of Public Health at Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council, on his blog, The Sandwell Skidder, which sought to expose council malpractice.
Mr Justice Chamberlain noted that Saunders was "an avid reader of Private Eye" and "aims to emulate its style", although "whether he succeeds in that aim is another matter".
During Mental Health Awareness Week, McNally made a two minute video for the council's Facebook page in which she disclosed that she had struggled with mental ill health since childhood, had self-harmed and had once narrowly avoided being detained in a psychiatric ward on which she was due to work the following day.
In response, Saunders published a blog post with a section titled, "Lisa 'Me, Me, Me,' McNally?" in which he described McNally as "not the sort of doctor who asks gentlemen to cough whilst holding their balls - at least not in a diagnostic context, but is a 'Chartered Psychologist'".
Characterising McNally's video as "seemingly extreme egotism", he said the "usual suspects" had "saluted what is supposed [sic] to be her 'bravery' for coming out with this solipsistic slop".
"What a time to release this narcissistic garbage", he continued. "Even if you are the peculiar type of moron... who likes this sort of whimpering confessional navel-gazing, the timing is a monumental misjudgement...Please shut the f*ck up about yourself and concentrate on the very real public health crisis engulfing Sandwell! That's your job".
Saunders wrote five blogs about McNally. In one he complained, "If there is a turd floating in the cesspit of local news you can be sure it will be fished out by the world's worst TV 'News Magazine' Midlands Today and, sure enough, McNally was soon boasting how she had been interviewed about this b*llocks".
The judge noted that Saunders also linked to a post about McNally on Facebook which "appeared immediately above a photograph of a street sign bearing the words 'Bell End'".
The judge said that, given the "frequently puerile tone and style" of the blog posts, a casual reader "might be surprised to discover that they are the work of a semi-retired former solicitor".
In her claim McNally said that Saunders' posts had given her "crippling" anxiety about attending meetings, and made her question whether she was fit to perform her job.
However, the judge said that while he definitely didn't endorse Saunders’ "unpleasant" posts, his blog qualified for the same protections afforded by the law to conventional journalism.
The judge also noted that McNally put her mental health issues into the public domain herself, and could expect pushback as an official. "Someone who decides to make a public disclosure of this kind must expect that, while many people are likely to comment favourably, some may choose to make comments that are adverse", he said. "This is one of the reasons why those who make such disclosures are often aptly described as courageous".
He struck out McNally's harassment claim on the grounds that it had no real prospect of success.