A couple who were the source of national press stories about a woman who painted her London house in red and white stripes following a planning row have been successfully sued for libel.
The pair made a series of defamatory claims about millionaire property developer Zipporah Lisle-Mainwaring, who hit the headlines when she painted a central London property in red and white stripes following a row over planning permission. They have withdrawn their allegations, apologised, and agreed to pay damages and her legal costs.
In April this year Lisle-Mainwaring won libel damages from the publisher of the Daily Mail. She lodged a separate claim against the paper for “harassment”.
Robert Lisle, the son of Lisle-Mainwaring’s late husband by his first wife, together with his second wife, Sally Lisle, made a series of allegations in mid-April last year after the planning row story broke in national newspapers.
Lisle also admitted misuse of private information and having breached Lisle-Mainwairing’s rights under the right to respect for privacy and family life guaranteed by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, Hugh Tomlinson QC told Mr Justice Warby at the High Court.
Robert and Sally Lisle had both spoken to Daily Mail journalist Kathryn Knight between Tuesday 14 April and Friday 17 April, Tomlinson said.
He said: “During a number of conversations and in emails with Ms Knight the defendants made untrue, unpleasant and defamatory statements about the claimant, the detail of which has subsequently been published in national newspapers including in The Mail Online, The Daily Mail and The Telegraph.”
These statements were also picked up and repeated or alluded to by a number of other news organisations, and published widely in print and online.
While the couple could not now recalled precisely what was said to the journalists to whom they spoke about Lisle-Mainwaring, “they do recall making certain defamatory allegations about her”, Tomlinson told the judge.
Robert Lisle falsely told Knight, among other things, that Lisle-Mainwaring had failed to provide for him and his family as her late husband would have wished.
“He told Ms Knight that he had been promised 15 per cent of the joint estate and that his father had told him that he wanted his son never to have less than £100,000 in his bank account,” Tomlinson told the judge.
The implication, which was untrue, was that Lisle-Mainwaring had unreasonably denied the Lisles money which was promised and was properly due to them.
“He also told Ms Knight that the claimant had broken promises to buy him a property in France, to ‘deal with his mortgage’ if he lost weight and to pay him a pension. He further claimed that the claimant had treated his father’s sister badly over financial matters. These were defamatory and untrue,” Tomlinson said.
Sally Lisle had alleged that Lisle-Mainwaring had unreasonably denied her and her family moneys which were promised to them and were properly due to them.
Tomlinson said the couple accepted that these allegations were untrue, and defamatory of Lisle-Mainwaring, and recognised that their actions had resulted in the publication of most of these untrue allegations and encouraged a media campaign against her which had had a detrimental effect on her health, her reputation amongst friends, acquaintances and business associates and had caused her acute distress and embarrassment.
Robert Lisle had also written “a highly defamatory email” which was published to at least six individuals on 8 July last year suggesting that Lisle-Mainwaring had both the means and inclination to take revenge against him and suggesting that if he were to become the victim of an accident this would be likely to have been caused by her, said Tomlinson, adding that such an allegation was not only false and defamatory, but also extremely hurtful given the financial and other support Lisle-Mainwaring had given him.
The court heard that he had also published information about Lisle-Mainwaring on a website he operated and in doing so breached her rights under Article 8 and misused her private information.
“The statements that the defendants have disseminated, published and caused to be published are of such a serious character and go so directly to the root of the claimant’s personal integrity that it speaks for itself that her reputation has suffered serious harm and grave distress,” Tomlinson said.
The breach of Mrs Lisle-Mainwaring’s rights under Article 8 had had a detrimental effect on her reputation among friends, acquaintances and business associates and caused her acute distress and embarrassment, he added.
Robert and Sally Lisle, who were in court, had agreed to pay damages – which Lisle-Mainwaring would donate to charity – and her legal costs, he added.
Robert Lisle told the judge he “unequivocally” accepted all that was said on Lisle-Mainwaring’s behalf, adding: “I am here today to apologise to the claimant for the distress and hurt caused to her by my actions.”
He went on: “I confirm that the wealth that was enjoyed by my father and the claimant was a result of the claimant’s inheritance and business activities.
“It was her money to do with as she wished, and it never formed part of my father’s estate, and was not my father’s to promise to me. He made no will leaving me anything at all. I have no entitlement to any of the claimant’s estate and the money that me and my family have received from her in the past is entirely as a result of her generosity and goodwill towards us and not as a result of any entitlement.”
He made a similar apology on his wife’s behalf, saying she had only met Lisle-Mainwaring on some six occasions.