Buying Silence How oligarchs, corporations and plutocrats use the law to gag their critics
By David Hooper
Book of the Year, The Spectator
THE ERA OF WIN AT ALL COSTS, WHETHER LEGAL OR ILLEGAL , IS UPON US. THIS IS THE ERA OF THE SLAPP CASE.
Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, or SLAPPs, are designed to censor, intimidate and silence critics of the powerful and wealthy by burdening them with aggressive opposing lawyers, heavy legal costs and deeply intrusive – and sometimes illegal – private investigations until they abandon the case.
The UK has the unenviable accolade of being the number one destination for such cases. Billionaire oligarchs, often ex-convicts and linked to organised crime, come here to launder their reputations through suing for libel – even when what’s been written about them is entirely true. Even worse, more often than not they either win their cases or scare their opponents into self-censorship, in a devastating blow to investigative journalism, media freedom and the public interest.
In this timely, insightful and often shocking book, David Hooper, veteran media lawyer, explores how the power of money enables the very wealthy – including Robert Maxwell, Nadhim Zahawi and McDonald’s – to crush their critics through SLAPP tactics. From billionaire oligarchs to powerful corporations, from corrupt politicians to super-rich businesspeople, Hooper describes how those with something to hide tried to stop you knowing about it, how their lawyers were willing to help them and – most importantly – what the government urgently needs to do to stop them.
“An extended plea for a re-balancing of English law to give more protection to free speech and create more barriers to so-called SLAPP suits (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation). It won’t be easy.”Air Mail
“Hooper … is succinct, yet still includes the telling detail of someone who has been unnervingly close to the action … What Buying Silence captures especially well is the sheer gall of the age of ‘alternative facts’ in which those who have a surfeit of money are enabled by the legal system in their bids to re-landscape the truth.”Laura Slattery, The Irish Times
“Terrific … It is the most extraordinary thing for an ordinary British citizen to read how it is that English law has become this system of menace around the world … A very timely book.”Nick Cohen, The Lowdown
“An empowering journey through the labyrinth of SLAPPs, this book is a beacon of enlightenment, offering hope and solutions against legal bullying. A must-read for advocates of free speech.”Eliot Higgins, journalist and founder of Bellingcat
“I’ve been in the trenches with David on one of his press v. plutocrat cases, and he’s the man you want watching your back. This is a vital book on how the rich use the courts, and the legal profession, to muzzle news organisations when it comes to the disclosure of their nefarious deeds.”Graydon Carter, founder of Air Mail and former editor of Vanity Fair
“A SLAPPstick analysis of how a rogues’ gallery of crooks, thieves and thugs have perverted the course of British justice – and what should be done to curb such intimidatory lawfare.”Ben Schott, author, photographer and journalist
“As an outstanding libel lawyer, David Hooper’s masterful investigation is a terrifying exposé of Britain’s corrupt judicial system.”Tom Bower, writer and author of Maxwell: The Outsider
“Those with power have often been able to manipulate the law to buy their way out of trouble. But they also do the opposite. They buy the law and weaponise it against those who call them out. A new kind of warfare – lawfare – is in operation. Crush your opponent in the courts; pay lawyers so much money their ethics go out the window. A shocking and vitally important book.”Baroness Helena Kennedy of the Shaws KC
“SLAPPs undercut our most important values: the freedom to speak and the right to know. If they are not effectively stopped, we will continue to be left in the dark about wrongdoing, malign influence and crimes that negatively affect our society and ultimately damage democracy, both here and abroad.”Susan Coughtrie, director of the Foreign Policy Centre and co-founder of the UK Anti-SLAPP Coalition
“Compellingly told, eye-popping, sometimes hilarious and always illuminating, David Hooper’s book is an excellent and forensic takedown of the often-corrupt clients who abuse a broken legal system – abetted by a generation of equally venal lawyers who have misplaced their moral compass – to sue those that would hold them to account into silence. The stories you will read here are more usually found in the pages of thrillers, but these stories are frighteningly and unfortunately true. Buying Silence is an urgent call to arms, exposing why the British tradition of ‘free speech’ is increasingly a myth, and why we should all be bloody furious at just how badly the British legal system serves us.”Mark Stephens CBE, solicitor
“A detailed and shocking account by an experienced media lawyer of the scandal of SLAPP actions and the need for fundamental reforms of the law and the legal profession.”David Davis MP
Share this book
Buy this book
- Hardback, 384 pages
- ISBN: 9781785908316
- 31 October 2023
- ISBN: 9781785908422
- 31 October 2023