Libel damages for Ecologist editor

Ecologist editor and prospective Tory MP Zac Goldsmith has won £75,000 in damages from The Observer over a story that alleged that he misled the guests of a charity poker evening.

In a page-three lead from 8 October, headlined ‘The poker party that wasn't', reporter Anthony Barnett alleged that Goldsmith lied to friends and guests attending the event and hid the fact that it was indirectly funding the Conservative party.

In an apology published two weeks later, The Observer said: "We accept that money raised by the recent charity poker event will go towards work on environmental causes and the Shane Warne Foundation. We apologise unreservedly to Mr Goldsmith."

A spokesman for Goldsmith said: "It was made clear on the invitation to guests that money would be split between Shane Warne's children's charities and Ecology Grants Ltd, a not-for-profit company that receives money raised from environmental fundraising events. It was also made clear that some of the money received by EGL could be passed to the Quality of Life Group, of which Goldsmith is the chairman, and which is advising the Conservative Party on green issues."

The cash settlement was reached following legal action from barrister Joanna Cash of One Brick Court.

Goldsmith's spokesman said the article "amounted to an old-fashioned piece of smear journalism calling into question Zac's personal and political integrity".

The Observer is also understood to be paying Goldsmith's costs.

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