An Essex MP today received “substantial”, but undisclosed, libel damages at London’s High Court from five national papers and the Conservative Party over allegations of an affair with a former Conservative councillor.
The councillor named in the stories, whose ex-partner was also a leading Conservative, also received compensation from the Conservative party.
The libel action had been launched by the MP for Castle Point, Dr Robert Spink and former councillor, Gail Boland, after the allegations appeared following Spink’s resignation from the Conservative Party.
Spink, in addition to suing the Conservative Party, had sued Times Newspapers, News Group Newspapers, Telegraph Media Group, and Associated Newspapers, over articles which appeared in The Times, the Daily and Sunday Telegraph, the Sun and the Evening Standard.
Solicitor David Price for Spink and Boland told Mr Justice David Eady that on 30 January 2005, a Mail on Sunday article alleged that Spink had had an affair with Boland which had led to the break-up of Spink’s marriage.
He said the story also led to the break-up of Boland’s relationship with her partner, Bill Sharp, who was deputy chairman of the local Conservative Association.
Price said that the Mail on Sunday had accepted earlier that the allegations were ‘entirely untrue’and had apologised.
“Dr Spink and Mrs Boland did not have an adulterous affair and any relationship between them commenced a significant time after the break-up of Dr Spink’s marriage and Mrs Boland’s relationship with Mr Sharp,’he said.
However, he told the judge that in March this year, after Spink announced his resignation from the Conservative Party and subsequently joined the UK Independence Party, there was widespread newspaper coverage of his resignation.
Price added: “Regrettably, in the course of their reporting, The times, the Daily Telegraph, the Sun and the Evening Standard all repeated the libellous allegation that Dr Spink and Mrs Boland had had an affair.
“All the articles suggested that the affair was the origin of the dispute between Dr Spink and certain members of the local association, which eventually led to Dr Spink’s resignation.”
He said that Spink and Boland were “shocked and distressed by the resurfacing of the libel”.
And he said that they then went on to discover that the allegations had resurfaced as a result of a briefing note issued by the Conservative party which, among other things, stated that the origins of the breakdown between Spink and the Conservative Association dated back to an affair he had had with Boland.
Price said that the Conservative Party claims that the reference was an innocent mistake made by a junior member of staff, but he said that Spink and Boland did not accept this.
However, he said that the newspaper publishers and the Conservative Party had now agreed terms to settle the libel claims arising from what was said.
In addition to the damages they are to receive, Spink and Boland’s legal costs will also be paid.