Memorandum submitted by Elaine Maria Decoulos
1. My name is Elaine Maria Decoulos. I was borne and raised in Massachusetts, USA. I have both American and Greek citizenship. I have lived in the UK for many years. I attended The London School of Economics for post-graduate studies in Economics and I have worked in The City of London. I am currently unemployed because of ill health and my all too consuming problems with the British press. Currently residing in the U.S., I plan to return to the UK sometime in March 2009.
2. Over approximately the last five years, I have unfortunately had many problems with the British press that have severely disrupted my life. I understand that the Committee does not normally investigate individual cases of complaint. Nevertheless, my problems with the British press are so serious and distressing I believe they need to be heard in the context of this inquiry. Moreover, I have had a number of problems trying to get justice in the English courts after harassment litigation was used to create privileged occasions that gave the press the opportunity to defame and then libel me. My problems also raise serious issues regarding how the wealthy and well connected get preferential treatment by the courts and the press, including violations of The European Convention of Human Rights. Nearly all of my court hearings have been held in private, apparently under Article 8 of The European Convention, though there appears to be no precedent for it. Private hearings are against English court procedure, English common law and Article 6 of The European Convention. It has gotten to the point that my human rights, access to justice and due process have been so repeatedly ignored that I feel it necessary to issue a complaint to Senator Kennedy's office here in Massachusetts. Notwithstanding the above, I will try to give a broad overview of the issues I raise and how they affect press reporting, libel and human rights, while detailing the specific problems I have encountered and continue to encounter in the courts and with the press.
it is probably important for me to say that I am currently representing myself
in an ongoing libel claim against Associated Newspapers, one of their freelance
journalists, Rory Knight-Bruce, Bruno Schroder and Schroders plc over an
article that was published in The
will be helpful if I provide the unfortunate background as to how I came to be
defamed by nearly every British newspaper and then libeled by several of
them. Back in November 2003, I made a
visit to the isle of Islay on the west coast of Scotland. I went there in the hope that Bruno Schroder,
who has an estate on the isle, would be there.
I was on my way from Massachusetts to Germany for medical treatment
because of several miscarriages I had while in a relationship with him. I was hoping he would be there so I could
discuss the matter with him.
Unfortunately, he was not there.
After a stay of four days, I left and stopped in London on my way to
Germany. Once in London, a friend
showed me a copy of that day's
5. Trumped up and false allegations were used to obtain the court ordered interim interdicts, the Scottish equivalent of an English injunction. As those on the Committee will know, the Scottish legal system is different to the English, and no Witness Statements needed to be prepared. What was most astounding was that I had complained for years to the Metropolitan Police in London about Suzanne von Maltzahn and her sons harassing me while living in London, culminating with the brakes being cut on my bicycle in September 2002. The fact that she was now accusing me of harassing her and Bruno Schroder and then reading about it in the press made me feel as if I was suddenly in a totalitarian state. How could they publish without hearing my side of the story? I denied all the allegations, but to this day, over five years later, no publication in Britain has given me a right of reply to those allegations. It was not for want of trying. They all shied away.
6. In December 2003, I went to The Court of Session in Edinburgh to request a court hearing in the hope of having the interim interdict removed. Soon after my arrival, the 'potentially violent' allegation was withdrawn, there being absolutely no evidence whatsoever to substantiate it, even though it had by now been used to seriously defame me across the British press and soon after, the internet, including American websites that carried syndicated articles from British newspapers. I proved other trumped up and false allegations were untrue, such as that I entered Dunlossit House, Bruno Schroder's residence on Islay, and that I was found to have rolls of film in my bag after having apparently been searched. Rather, I proved I had used a disposable camera to take a few photos and therefore had no rolls of film. In any event, no one searched my bag. It was all a pack of lies, yet much of it ended up in every Scottish newspaper with no reply from me. I was indeed shocked that this could happen to me in a civilised country with a long democratic tradition.
I arrived at The Court of Session in Edinburgh, I tried to find out how the
court summons was leaked to the press. I
found out a copy was given to the one agency reporter and the Scotsman
reporter. The agency reporter informed
most of the press. The court staff told
me the contents of the summons and the granting of the interim interdict never
should have gotten into the press because the hearing was without notice to me
and I had no chance to reply. This was extremely
distressing to hear. I was therefore
determined to have the court hearing I was now requesting reported in the
press. Unbelievably, this was denied
me. I had informed both The Scotsman
reporter and the agency reporter of the hearing. The Scotsman reporter attended. My hearing was in front of Lord Bracadale on
the 19th December 2003.
Although Lord Bracadale did not order the hearing in private, he asked
the Scotsman reporter to leave. If he
did not, the hearing would be held in his chambers. There was quite a stand off. Finally, the reporter left. After the hearing I told him what happened,
but he was no longer willing to do a report because the Judge had asked him to
leave the courtroom. It was all very
distressing and most unfair to me because the story was already in the public
domain and I sought to finally have my side of the story heard after being
defamed across the British press. This
was unjustly denied me. This problem is
not unique to Scotland as I will soon explain.
the court hearing in December 2003, I had believed that was the end of the
vexatious litigation, but I remained very concerned about clearing my name in
the press, worried that I would repeatedly and falsely be referred to as Bruno
Schroder's stalker whenever the press wrote about him and possibly his
firm. The stress of being called a
'potentially violent' stalker across the British press took its toll on
me. While visiting my sister in Panama
in January 2004, I developed a severe case of vertigo that lasted for two
months. If I had known what was to come
next, I might have chanced sending The
was seriously libeled twice soon after the English litigation commenced. First in The Daily and International Express
on the 1st June 2004, then in The Mail on Sunday on the 14th
June 2004, when I was used as an example as to why one may need stalking
insurance. Neither sought to contact me
for a right of reply. The English
injunction was discharged at my first appearance in front of a High Court Judge
and false evidence was indeed used to obtain it, as Witness Statements ordered
by Mr. Justice Holland proved. An
agreement was subsequently reached at a court hearing on the 2nd
March 2005, held in private against my wishes, English court procedure, common
law and Article 6 of The European Convention.
I was then pressured to keep the agreement sealed in the court file,
after being reassured that it could be unsealed if necessary. After being libeled again by The
currently have several libel claims outstanding regarding articles published
and syndicated by Associated Newspapers.
The main one over the 2nd August 2005 article published in
Richard Kay's column in The
Committee should know that after approaching several firms of solicitors, no
one would take this claim against The
12. I have a few other libels claims having to with articles published by Associated Newspapers that were syndicated to America and published on the internet. Two of them have had their copyright criminally infringed to further defame and libel me. This is a serious matter indeed and I hope the inquiry will look into this.
13. I would like to add that I do not believe anybody should be allowed to sue in the civil courts for harassment unless there has first been a successful criminal prosecution for harassment. There is too much potential for abuse. No one should be accused of harassment in a civil claim and have it reported in the press with no right of reply. Solicitors and their clients can initially use trumped up allegations, false allegations and false evidence to start a claim, as has happened to me. This is done without any checks and balances from the police or Crown Prosecution Service. In my case, one of the principal reasons it was done was to defame me in the press and I am still fighting in the courts over five years later. This is unjust, against my human rights and has been very painful indeed.
14. It is a disgrace to the United Kingdom and the British press that an individual can be defamed and libeled in the way I have been. What happened to me is a bit like what has happened in the McCann case, though of course not as serious, but very damaging nonetheless. Rather than lies being told about the investigation, in my case, lies were told in court proceedings by a woman intently out to defame me, knowing full well that the press could initially publish those lies without being sued for libel. This woman, Suzanne von Maltzahn, was also using court proceedings to deflect attention away from her very serious harassment of me and to prevent the police from investigating my allegations about her. Once harassment litigation was commenced against me, the police did indeed stop investigating.
15. There is more I would like to say to the Committee and I hope to do so in due course, in further written evidence and possibly in giving oral evidence. I have more to say about funding, The European Human Rights Act, the level of damages, the Press Complaints Commission and the use of The Harassment Act 1997 in the civil courts to defame and libel. Gideon Rachman, a columnist for the Financial Times, published a column last summer about the inaccuracies of the British press verses the American press. Their failure to back up their stories with two sources is much of the problem.
16. I thank the Committee for commencing this inquiry and for the opportunity to put forth my experiences.