Cruddas and Times Newspapers rages on; record costs bill expected
Times Newspapers Ltd, publishers of the sunday Times, will seek to appeal a High Court ruling that the paper libelled former Conservative Party treasurer Peter Cruddas over claims that he sold access to the Prime Minister.
The case revolves around a meeting between then-Tory treasurer Cruddas and undercover journalists posing as financiers and potential party donors in March 2012. The meeting was covertly recorded, both in audio and visually. Following the meeting, the sunday Times published a series of articles, both in hard copy and on its associated website. Cruddas sued the journalists responsible, together with the publisher, for malicious falsehood and libel, arguing that the words used suggested that he corruptly offered for sale secret meetings with the Prime Minister (and the opportunity to influence Government policy) in return for cash donations to the Conservative Party, and that he was happy to accept money from foreign sources in breach of UK electoral law. Notably, the Defendants declined to raise a defence of Reynolds qualified privilege, which would have brought the public interest into consideration, instead relying solely on the defence of justification (or ˜truth). In a Judgment handed down on 31 July 2013 (http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/QB/2013/2298.html), Mr Justice Tugendhat ruled that the words complained of were false and that the journalists had acted maliciously, awarding Mr Cruddas £180,000 in damages. The Defendants have been told to make an interim costs payment of £500,000 but it is anticipated that actual costs could be in excess of £1million, making it one of the most expensive libel battles of all time. Leave to appeal was refused, but Times Newspapers have indicated that they will seek permission directly from the Court of Appeal.
Articles are intended as an introduction to the topic and do not constitute legal advice.