Court of Appeal Reduces Sunday Times Cruddas Payout to £50,000

Tory cash for access is back in the headlines 50 days out from the election. According to the source of the Sunday Times’ controversial Peter Cruddas story, which previously lost its defamation and malicious falsehood case:

Kerching!

UPDATE: Sunday Times statement:

“The Sunday Times and two of its journalists, Jonathan Calvert and Heidi Blake, are today completely vindicated for reporting that Peter Cruddas corruptly offered access to David Cameron and other leading members of the Government in exchange for donations to the Conservative party. As party treasurer, he told the undercover reporters that if they made substantial donations to the party they would have an opportunity to influence Government policy and to gain unfair commercial advantage through confidential meetings. The Court of Appeal has found that proposing this was unacceptable, inappropriate and wrong.

This was an important public interest story. Our journalists acted with professionalism and integrity and with the full support of the newspaper’s editors and lawyers. They and the newspaper have fought this case for three years. Today’s judgment confirms that journalism, and in particular undercover journalism, plays a key role in exposing the conversations behind closed doors which public mistrust. In so doing, it serves a vital purpose in a democracy.”

UPDATE II: Who has to pay what to whom:

  • In relation to the sum of £180,000 paid by the Defendants to the Claimant by way of damages on 14 August 2013:
  • The Claimant shall, by 4pm on 31 March 2015, repay the sum of £130,000 to the Defendants
  • The Claimant shall pay interest on that sum (£130,000) from 15 August 2013 at the rate of 8% per year, amounting, at the date of this order, to £16,496.86
  • The Claimant shall pay the Defendants 2/3 of their costs of the appeal
  • The Defendants shall pay the Claimant 50% of his costs at first instance
  • The Claimant shall pay the Defendants the sum of £150,000 on account of the costs ordered

UPDATE III: The conclusion is damning on Cruddas:

“On the defendants’ appeal, I conclude that the judge erred in respect of the first of the meanings previously identified by the Court of Appeal. On a proper reading of the transcript of a meeting on 15th was effectively saying to the journalists that if they donated large sums to the Conservative Party, they would have an opportunity to influence Government policy and to gain unfair commercial advantage through confidential meetings with the Prime Minister and other senior ministers. That was unacceptable, inappropriate and wrong.”

UPDATE IV: It’s not all good news for the Sunday Times however:

“I agree with the judge that the defendants have failed to justify the second and third meanings previously identified by the Court of Appeal. The defendants are liable for libel and malicious falsehood in respect of those matters.”

UPDATE V: Cruddas speaks:

“Naturally I am disappointed that the Court of Appeal has allowed part of the Sunday Times’ appeal, but it is some consolation that I remain the overall winner of my action. The Court has said that the newspaper failed “by a wide margin” to justify their suggestion that I was prepared to break UK electoral law by accepting foreign donations. What is more, they have confirmed that based on the Judge’s assessment of the oral evidence which he heard from the Sunday Times journalists, there is no basis for overturning his decision that they were malicious and knew that suggestion to be untrue.

“This is no victory for the Sunday Times when they still have to pay me damages, and their journalists remain condemned as malicious. It is a sad day for honest journalism when a trial Judge finds it very surprising that journalists should so consistently and seriously have misled their editor as to the basis on which they sought authorisation to use subterfuge against me. It is telling that the Sunday Times did not try to challenge that finding in the Court of Appeal.”




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