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Andrew Bridgen must pay Matt Hancock legal fees of £40,000 in libel claim

The MP Andrew Bridgen has been ordered to pay Matt Hancock more than £40,000 in legal fees after an early stage of their libel battle.

The MP for North West Leicestershire is bringing a libel claim against the former health secretary regarding a January 2023 message on X that followed Bridgen posting a comment about Covid-19 vaccines.

The high court in London previously heard that Bridgen wanted to “clear his name” after allegedly being accused of antisemitism in a “malicious” social media post by the former I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here! contestant.

At the previous hearing, a judge was told that Bridgen shared a link to an article about data on deaths and other adverse reactions linked to Covid vaccines, and stated: “As one consultant cardiologist said to me, this is the biggest crime against humanity since the Holocaust.”

Hours later, Hancock wrote on X that “disgusting and dangerous antisemitic, anti-vax, anti-scientific conspiracy theories spouted by a sitting MP this morning are unacceptable and have absolutely no place in our society”.

Bridgen believes “every person reading the tweet knew it was about me”, that it was “seriously defamatory and untrue” and intended to cause “grievous harm” to his reputation, the court was told.

Hancock’s lawyers argued that the claim against him should be thrown out as it did not have a “realistic prospect of success” and because of the “lack of a properly articulated case”.

In a ruling last week, Mrs Justice Steyn “struck out” certain parts of Bridgen’s case but did not dismiss the whole claim, instead giving the independent MP a chance to make amendments and “remedy the deficiencies”. Bridgen was ordered to pay £44,300 in legal costs to the MP for West Suffolk in a court order on Thursday.

After the court order was made public, Hancock wrote on X: “Glad the court has awarded costs against Mr Bridgen at this stage of his absurd libel action, and explicitly stated that I was the successful party, contrary to Bridgen’s ridiculous claims at the time.

“Mr Bridgen should stop wasting the court’s time and drop this case now.”

Steyn added that if Bridgen, a former Conservative MP, did not provide the details of his amended claim or did not successfully make the required application, the libel claim would be thrown out entirely.