On, 17 January 2022, the second day of the libel trial in the case of Banks v Cadwalladr, Mrs Justice Steyn heard evidence from both the claimant and the defendant. The cross-examination of the claimant, Arron Banks, by Gavin Millar QC concluded in the morning. The afternoon was taken up by the beginning of what promises to be a lengthy cross-examination of the defendant, Carole Cadwalladr, by William McCormick QC.
Mr Millar drew attention to a number of publications between June 2018 and April 2019 (when the defendant gave her TED talk) alleging that Mr Banks was “lying” about his relationship with Russia. In an Observer article in June 2018 Ms Cadwalladr had said Mr Banks had lied about his Russian connections. He had not sued over any of these.
Mr Millar drew attention to a Channel 4 News report in the summer of 2018, alleging Russian involvement in Mr Banks diamond mining business to fund his Brexit campaign. Mr Banks responded that this was a “risible”. He said he didn’t sue over this as it did not say he was lying.
In response to questions from Mr Millar about not responding to Ms Cadwalladr’s inquiries, Mr Banks said “Why should I cooperate with her when she’d stolen my emails?” He said that he had a relatively friendly relationship with her but that things soured.
Mr Banks said he believed that Ms Cadwalladr added the line about him in her TED talk to sensationalise it, and attract a US audience with the picture of him, Mr Farage and Mr Wigmore in the Golden Lift with Donald Trump.
Mr Banks evidence ended shortly before lunch. Mr McCormick indicated that he planned to cross-examine Ms Cadwalladr for the rest of the day and the whole of tomorrow and that he might need more time.
In response to questions from Mr McCormick, Ms Cadwalladr said “I have never thought Mr Banks is Russian Spy or similar”. She said “Reflecting on the evidence, I thought it was possible he was used and exploited by the Russian government.” She agreed that she never had any evidence that Mr Banks accepted any money directly or indirectly from the Russian Government.
Ms Cadwalladr says she wrote her very detailed witness statement, to cover 2 and half years of work on the whole subject herself, and it was originally 50,000 words. She said that she provided 180,000 items of evidence to her lawyers.
Asked why she sent Mr Banks several messages on Twitter challenging him to an interview she said. “The whole tone of [the book] Bad Boys of Brexit was an ebullient banterish tone, so I was reflecting the tone to Mr Banks”.
She claimed that Mr Banks only took legal action “against those who find it difficult to defend themselves“.
Ms Cadwalladr said she still believed that Mr Banks was a pro-Russian actor but that this did not mean he received any funding from Russia.
The cross-examination of Ms Cadwalladr will continue tomorrow.