'It threatens my life' - Bradford MP Naz Shah wins apology and payout after campaign group branded her a 'grooming gangs apologist'

An anti-EU campaign group has been forced to apologise after accusing a Yorkshire MP of being a “grooming gangs apologist”.

Bradford West MP, Labour’s Naz Shah, took legal action against controversial group Leave.EU for defamation after the group shared a post on Facebook and Twitter following the December general election.

The posts, which offered fictional odds on Jeremy Corbyn’s successor after he announced his intention to step aside, read: “Remainers, racists and reprobates galore! Some excellent candidates to be the next leader of the loser Labour Party”.

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And it featured Ms Shah, who was described as a “grooming gangs apologist”.

Bradford West MP Naz Shah. Photo: JPI Media

But the MP, who Leave.EU has now recognised is a “vociferous campaigner” against grooming, took legal action and has now secured an apology and cash for damages.

The Leave.EU apology said: “On 16 December 2019 we posted a Facebook post which described Naz Shah MP as a ‘grooming gangs apologist’.

“While the publication had been intended to be satirical; we appreciate that it was ill-judged and untrue.

“We accept that Ms Shah is not an ‘apologist’ for grooming gangs but is a vociferous campaigner for victims of grooming gangs. We apologise for the distress caused by it and have paid Ms Shah damages for libel.”

Ms Shah, a victim of abuse herself, said: “I faced a significant level of abuse because of these false allegations. So I am pleased with the apology and the clarification that I am a vociferous campaigner for victims of grooming. I will now focus on continuing to support women and children who are victims of abuse.”

The language used against Ms Shah has been a constant attack line ever since the MP mistakenly liked and shared a tweet in 2017 which said: “Those abused girls in Rotherham and elsewhere just need to shut their mouths. For the good of diversity.”

At the time a spokesperson for Ms Shah said it “was a genuine accident” that was “rectified within minutes”.

And speaking to The Yorkshire Post, Ms Shah said: “I refuse to be defined by a tweet, that was up for eight minutes, that was rectified.

“In a normal course of life you make a mistake, you rectify it. But for some courses, for some people in society, the right wing in particular, this screenshot is turned into propaganda and then they amplify it, and they fan the flames of hate and fan the flames of division.”

And she added: “I will not tolerate people continuing to perpetuate this false allegation against me, because it is entirely false.”

Ms Shah said she received abuse from some sections of society for the tweet, but also from others for speaking out against so-called honour killings, such as that of 28-year-old Bradford beautician Samia Shahid.

“I've had somebody go to prison for 12 weeks for wanting to kill me because of this 'grooming gangs apologist' stuff, it's just a lot,” she said.

“I'm one of the most abused MP because of this allegation and to make a joke out of it and to suggest that it was satirical, when we've had Jo Cox's murder not far from where I lived, it’s pretty bad.”

Stewart Hanson was jailed for 12 weeks last year after he admitted sending Ms Shah an email accusing her of anti-Semitism and suggesting she had tried to silence the victims of the Rotherham child abuse scandal.

She added: “So you've got on one hand, you raise the issue of honour killings, and you've got a potential bounty on your head for the rest of your life. And on the other hand, you make a mistake, which was a legitimate mistake, and then you’ve got the right wing [attacking you].”

Ms Shah said: “It threatens my life. I think people really need to understand the severity of it.

“I’ve had two years of this abuse and I lived in hope that people would see that I've got a huge track record of campaigning, and it could mean life or death.”