A media director plans to appeal against a judge’s ruling that he must pay hundreds of thousands of pounds to 26 employees of a newspaper series which closed down last year.
Duncan Williams bought View From Newspapers, a series of seven weekly titles, in January 2018, two weeks after it was closed down and all of its 31 employees put on notice of redundancy.
Williams bought View From and company the Sunday Independent Ltd from businessman and Truro City Football Club co-owner Peter Masters, who retained the Sunday Independent newspaper.
In September Williams (pictured) was ruled personally responsible for up to £250,000 owed to nearly 30 former employees of the group, which was based in Lyme Regis, Dorset.
An employment judge at Exeter Combined Court ruled all rights, powers, duties and liabilities had transferred to Williams when he bought View From, although he claimed he believed he was only buying the brand.
A previous appeal from Williams against September’s judgment was dismissed on the grounds there was “no reasonable prospect of the decision being varied or revoked”.
A two-day hearing was held last month for Judge Nicholas Roper to determine how much is owed to each of 26 claimants, including lead claimant and former View From deputy editor James Coles.
Judge Roper has now begun publishing judgments on how much is owed to each former employee depending on how long they worked for the newspaper company.
One of these claimants, whose judgment on remedy has been seen by Press Gazette, is owed nearly £20,800, of which £6,000 was awarded for unfair dismissal, according to the court.
Williams estimates that the total cost to him will be more than £250,000 including legal costs, although he is still waiting to be sent all of the final amounts owed.
He said in a statement: “I plan to appeal the personal liability ruling within the 14 day time period allowed in the judgment.
“For this reason the Employment Appeal Tribunal have advised me not to make further comment at this time either as an individual or as owner of the Sunday Independent Ltd.”
The National Union of Journalists supported the claimants in the case, as former View From chief reporter Anders Larsson – who was on holiday when the redundancies were made – is a member.
Andy Smith, the NUJ’s organiser for newspapers, agencies and digital media, told Press Gazette: “The financial impact on the staff working on the View From titles until its sudden closure at the beginning of 2018 is still being felt.
“Fifteen months after these people lost their jobs they still don’t know when they are going to get the wages and redundancy payments they earned, or the compensation that the tribunal decided they are due.
“We’re still waiting for a number of the judgments on remedy to be published so we don’t know what the total will be.
“As he was found personally liable, we will have to wait to see whether Mr Williams is able to pay. If not, the taxpayer will have to step in through the National Insurance Fund.
“Last year the fund paid out over £300m in redundancy payments left unpaid by companies that went bust.”
Press Gazette reported last week that Williams was ordered to pay £16,483.10 in compensation for unfair dismissal Anita Routley, a former accountant at the newspaper group.
Routley’s case is separate to the other 26 claimants as she was sacked one week before Christmas 2017 – 17 days before the company closed.