A Statement

Jon Pretty, 26 April 2024

I am a Scala developer and speaker who was cancelled three years ago. Yesterday I attended the High Court in London to hear an apology from several prominent members of the Scala community for making untrue claims about me on 27 April 2021. I sued them for libel, and they admitted fault and settled, paying me costs and damages.

Their allegations were sensational and squalid, but unfounded. Their source was the resentment of one woman following a relationship in 2018, which I ended against her wishes. She fabricated or was offered an alternative narrative, which developed into claims of a pattern of behaviour, and culminated in the defendants’ publication of an open letter, which they now agree is defamatory.

In two years of legal action, the defendants never presented any evidence to support their allegations, and admitted in court that they had no proper reason to make them. They have given undertakings to the court not to publish further or similar defamatory statements, or have anyone else do so on their behalf.

No signatory contacted me about the allegations before publication. I received no warning, and had no knowledge of the claims’ substance. I only discovered what I was accused of at the same time as I learned of my indefinite exclusion from the community; at the same time everyone else found out. I had no opportunity to defend myself. It is no coincidence that the absence of due process led to an abject injustice.

The experience of cancellation and enduring the online hysteria was traumatic. I responded by withdrawing from the life I knew. Its consequences hurt me and people close to me, and have been immiserating.

My employment opportunities were obliterated. My charitable and educational projects, and my small business, could not continue. Despite my transferable skills, the allegations were a transferrable red flag recognised across programming communities and industries, and I have barely earned a living since. It has taken two years of legal action to receive fair scrutiny in a forum reliant on facts. This outcome finally vindicates me.

Many familiar with the open letter will be surprised by this outcome, given the certainty expressed by some of the letter’s supporters. But they should question why no defence of my libel claim was ever offered. They should seek answers for how so many people became so convinced without evidence. And the defendants’ co-signatories should reassess the credibility of everything that compelled them to support the open letter.

Nonetheless, I believe the open letter’s authors were convinced it was the right thing to do. I believe that they wished to show their kindness in response to a story which shocked them. Many of them I have known for years, and know to be good, moral people who were mistaken, and would not wish to be mistaken.

Good people can make mistakes, without becoming bad people. So, I offer them the respect and compassion I believe they deserve. I recognise their good intent, and I interpret its consequences charitably. We owe each other civility in ceding the time and space necessary to reflect upon this in open enquiry, without coercion or urgency, so everyone can reach a better understanding of this outcome, and of one another.

I have avoided naming any third parties here, and I urge others to do the same. I know too well how it feels to be the subject of online harassment, and I do not wish it upon anyone. I reject the culture of blame and escalation.

I have not been idle since 2021. I’ve spent much of my time writing Scala 3, which I believe is an exceptional platform for software development, and deserves far greater success. I am motivated to be part of that success, and I will start sharing my work again soon.

Consent Order and Statement in Open Court, The Honourable Mrs Justice Steyn DBE