Saturday, 5 December 2009

Damages round-up

A cracking end-of-the-week for the newspapers and their lawyers. First up, yet another libel payout by one of Richard Desmond's rags:

Earl Spencer and his daughter Kitty today accepted substantial damages today over false claims made by the Sunday Express that they acted improperly over his divorce... Today, the court was told the newspaper had offered its sincere apologies for the distress and embarrassment caused and had agreed to pay substantial damages and their legal costs in full.

But Rupert Murdoch has two substantial lots of damages to pay. First, to Derek Simpson of the Unite union:

Union leader Derek Simpson today accepted undisclosed damages from the News of the World after it claimed he took unfair advantage in an election he eventually won. Simpson, the joint general secretary of Unite, brought High Court proceedings over an article published in October.

His solicitor, Athalie Matthews, told Mr Justice Eady in London the article alleged that Simpson was guilty of a breach of election rules and misusing union funds which gave him an unfair advantage in the March election.
It stated that he had sent a mailshot to Unite's members six weeks before the election and, as a result of this, was to be fined £100,000 or would have to retire early.

All the allegations were untrue, Matthews said, adding: "The publication of this article caused Mr Simpson considerable distress and embarrassment.

"He was especially concerned that it could cause Unite members to suspect him of cheating in the election and thus to question the validity of his election.

"He was also understandably concerned that falsely suggesting that he might have to retire within six months could undermine his leadership and destabilise the union."

News Group Newspapers, publisher of the News of the Word, had apologised and agreed to pay Simpson damages and legal costs.
The newspaper's solicitor, Patrick Callaghan, said it wished to make clear that it was entirely mistaken in publishing the allegations.

He added: "It did so in reliance on a source which it believed to be reliable. As such, the News of the World apologises to Mr Simpson for this article and for the distress and embarrassment it has caused him."

And (thanks to Sun - Tabloid Lies) a reminder that the Sun will be paying £75,000 in libel damages to Mohammed George for calling him a woman-beater, which they also have to tell their readers about now:

Former EastEnders star Mo George has been awarded £75,000 libel damages over a Sun article which a jury ruled wrongly branded him a woman beater. The actor's lawyer Ronald Thwaites, QC, told the High Court the article left Mr George depressed and unwilling to go out. After the case, Mr George, 26, said: "I want to thank all my friends and family who have supported me through all of this." Publishers News Group Newspapers had denied libel, claimed justification and maintained the article was true.

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