Claimant wins abortion libel case

Former Cardinal's spokesman wins £30k damages from Associated Newspapers

The nine day retrial of the libel action brought by a former spokesman for the head of the Roman Catholic church in England and Wales against Associated Newspapers over an article in the Daily Mail has resulted in a £30,000 damages award.

Austen Ivereigh was the director of public affairs for Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor at the time of the publication of an article in the Daily Mail, which alleged that he had hypocritically manoeuvred a former girlfriend into having an abortion, and failed to support another when she became pregnant. He claimed that he was strongly opposed to abortion on both occasions and offered his support. The Jury took 3 and 1/2 hours to decide unanimously in his favour.

Associated Newspapers Ltd defended the claims on the basis that the allegations were true, or fair comment on a matter of public interest. An Associated Newspapers spokesman said: “We are extremely disappointed with the outcome. We published what we considered to be an important story in the public interest.”

The first trial of the action, heard almost a year ago, ended with the jury being unable to reach a verdict. Retrials are rarely seen in defamation litigation.

5RB‘s Mark Warby QC (instructed by Reynolds Porter Chamberlain) represented Associated Newspapers. Adam Wolanski was involved in earlier stages of the proceedings.