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Jack Monroe wins Twitter libel case against Katie Hopkins

The food writer and campaigner Jack Monroe has won £24,000 in a libel case against Katie Hopkins, in a row over tweets which implied Monroe defaced or condoned the damage of a war memorial.

Monroe, who sued the controversial Mail Online columnist over the posts from May 2015, told the high court in London that the messages from Hopkins had led to death threats, and said their legal dispute had been an “unproductive, devastating nightmare”. The food blogger’s lawyers argued the tweets were defamatory and caused “serious harm” to Monroe’s reputation.

The case centred on public tweets sent by Hopkins to Monroe – apparently in a case of mistaken identity – after a memorial to the women of the second world war in Whitehall was vandalised with the words “Fuck Tory scum” during an anti-austerity demonstration.

Commenting on the graffiti, Laurie Penny, a columnist for the New Statesman, tweeted from her account @PennyRed that she “[didn’t] have a problem” with the vandalism as a form of protest, as “the bravery of past generations does not oblige us to be cowed today”.

Shortly afterwards, in a tweet directed to Monroe’s then account @MsJackMonroe, Hopkins wrote: “Scrawled on any memorials recently? Vandalised the memory of those who fought for your freedom. Grandma got any more medals?”

The court was told that Hopkins had mistaken Monroe for Penny. Both writers have been outspoken anti-austerity critics.

Lawyers for Monroe, a contributor to the Guardian, argued that the tweet suggested the food writer had either vandalised a war memorial, and “thereby desecrated the memory of those who fought for [Monroe’s] freedom and had committed a criminal act”, or had “condoned or approved” of the criminal vandalisation of a war memorial.

Shortly after Hopkins’s original message, Monroe tweeted in response: “I have NEVER ‘scrawled on a memorial’. Brother in the RAF. Dad was a Para in the Falklands. You’re a piece of shit.”

Monroe later sent a second message asking Hopkins to apologise: “Dear @KTHopkins, public apology + £5K to migrant rescue and I won’t sue. It’ll be cheaper for you and v satisfying for me.”

Hopkins deleted the first tweet but, said Bennett, “she did not apologise or retract the allegation even though she knew it was false”. Shortly afterwards, the Mail columnist tweeted: “Can someone explain to me – in 10 words or less – the difference between irritant @PennyRed and social anthrax @MsJackMonroe.”

Jonathan Price, for Hopkins, told the judge that the columnist’s case was that “this relatively trivial dispute arose and was resolved on Twitter in a period of several hours”.

He argued that “no lasting harm, and certainly no serious harm”, to Monroe’s reputation resulted from it. Price said Hopkins’s case was that “these proceedings are an unnecessary and disproportionate epilogue to the parties’ otherwise forgotten Twitter row”.

Monroe came to prominence through a blog, A Girl Called Jack, which shared affordable recipes the writer had devised as a single parent. The writer also became an outspoken campaigner on issues of poverty and social justice.

In December, Mail Online was ordered to pay £150,000 to a British Muslim family over a column by Hopkins which falsely accused them of extremism after they were stopped by US immigration officials en route to Disneyland. The website published an apology.

Hopkins, who first found fame as a contestant on The Apprentice, left the Sun in 2015 after writing a column that compared migrants to cockroaches and becoming the target of a petition calling for her to be sacked.