The Sunday Times has been forced to pay £180,000 in damages plus an estimated half a million pounds in legal costs after losing its libel battle with former Tory treasurer Peter Cruddas.
The paper alleged that Cruddas had offered to influence Government policy in return for donations to the party.
In a series of stories from the paper's Insight team last March, The Sunday Times claimed that Cruddas had charged potential donors up to £250,000 for access to Prime Minister David Cameron.
In a judgment handed down today, Mr Justice Tugendhat ruled that the meaning of the articles – that Cruddas had corruptly offered for sale the chance to meet senior Government figures and influence policy – was wrong and defamatory.
Tugendhat also found in favour of Cruddas on the further claim that the articles were published maliciously. He said that the stories “were likely to cause him pecuniary damage in respect of his profession and business”.
The Sunday Times had argued that that the articles – which were based on covert recordings – only meant that what Cruddas said in the course of the meeting was "inappropriate, unacceptable and wrong and gave rise to an impression of impropriety".
In February, Tugendhat rejected the defence of justification and said he disagreed with the paper’s definition of the meaning of the stories.
Cruddas was initially told he had won his libel claim against Times Newspapers on 5 June, but later that month, the Court of Appeal ruled that the case should be heard at trial.
The publisher later requested that a judge other than Tugendhat should conduct the trial, but its application to change judges was rejected.