Summer rush to libel court costs papers dear

Newspapers have faced a particularly costly end-of-season rush at the London libel courts this year, with the Daily Mail and the Daily Mirror facing hefty payouts.

The High Court went into recess on Tuesday and few, if any, libel hearings are now likely to be heard until it reconvenes in October.

Leading the stampede of (mainly) celebrities seeking to settle accounts was hypnotist Paul McKenna who, on Friday, won his libel claim against the Daily Mirror.

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He sued over an article by Victor Lewis-Smith printed in October 2003 which, he claimed, painted him as a "fraudster who knowingly bought a degree to defraud the public".

Mr Justice Eady said in his judgment: "Much energy has been expended to very little purpose. No doubt there would have been various windows of opportunity for sensible compromise and setting the record straight.

"Yet the parties seem to have been determined to fight to a standstill… Costs are no doubt massive on both sides [yet] what all this has achieved is open to question."

Damages, which are not expected to be large, will be set at a later date.

It is the second costly payout of recent weeks prompted by a Lewis- Smith article.

In June, the Evening Standard paid out £100,000 in damages and costs to celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay over the suggestion by Lewis-Smith that he "cynically faked scenes" on his TV show Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares.

On Monday, actress and fashion designer Sadie Frost accepted "substantial" but undisclosed libel damages at the High Court over claims in The Mail on Sunday that she attacked a young model.

She sued over an article from Augustlast year, headlined: "Catfight in the ladies cost Sadie her lover". It suggested she had been involved in a toilet fracas with a young model.

This week the Daily Mail also paid damages and legal costs to Lord Jones of Cheltenham after reporting on 19 February that he had once called Parliament "a total waste of time" and had taken a visit to Africa funded by Botswanan tax-payers.

Others involved in this year's summer libel rush include:

  • Noel Edmonds, who on 27 July accepted an apology and cash settlement from the Daily Mail over allegations he had behaved unprofessionally in his career
  • Actress Kate Hudson who, on 20 July, accepted damages and an apology in the High Court from the National Enquirer, after the magazine claimed that she had an eating disorder
  • Actor Harry Capehorn, who received damages and a High Court apology from The Independent on Sunday on 18 July after it used a file picture of him to illustrate a story headlined "The Asbo Kids", without explaining that he was posing as a model
  • Journalist Muhamed Veliu, who was awarded £175,000 at the High Court in July after Albanian paper Bota Sot branded him a terrorist
  • Footballer Ashley Cole, who in June collected more than £100,000 from The Sun and the News of the World after suggesting that an un-named footballer, identified subsequently on websites as Cole, had taken part in a "gay orgy"

Meanwhile, the long-running Tommy Sheridan versus the News of the World libel trial moved towards a conclusion this week.



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