Belfast Telegraph

Monday 20 October 2014

Libel damages for Joanna landlord

Chris Jefferies has accepted 'substantial' libel damages from eight newspapers

Joanna Yeates's landlord Chris Jefferies has accepted "substantial" undisclosed libel damages from eight newspapers over allegations made against him over her death.

The retired schoolmaster was not at London's High Court for the settlement of his actions against the publishers of The Sun, the Daily Mirror, the Sunday Mirror, the Daily Mail, the Daily Record, the Daily Express, the Daily Star and the Scotsman.

His solicitor Louis Charalambous told Mr Justice Tugendhat that "in recognition of the immense distress and damage" caused, they had all agreed to apologise for the "seriously defamatory" allegations made in the wake of the landscape architect's December 2010 death and pay substantial damages.

Mr Charalambous, of Simons Muirhead & Burton, said the newspapers had acknowledged the falsity of the allegations in question which were contained in more than 40 articles published in late December 2010 and early January 2011.

Speaking outside court, he added: "Christopher Jefferies is the latest victim of the regular witch hunts and character assassination conducted by the worst elements of the British tabloid media. Many of the stories published in these newspapers are designed to 'monster' the individual, in flagrant disregard for his reputation, privacy and rights to a fair trial."

Lawyer Bambos Tsiattalou, senior partner at Stokoe Partnership, advised Mr Jefferies following his arrest on December 30 2010. He said: "We warned the media by letter, immediately following Mr Jefferies's arrest, in the strongest possible terms to desist from publishing stories which were damaging or defamatory. We were dismayed that our warnings went unheeded and are pleased that the newspapers, in settling Mr Jefferies's claims, have acknowledged the extent of the damage to his reputation."

The High Court later ruled that articles published in The Sun and Daily Mirror following the arrest of Mr Jefferies were in contempt of court.

Attorney General Dominic Grieve had brought contempt proceedings and told judges that reports would have posed a "substantial risk" of prejudicing any trial Mr Jefferies might have faced. Both newspapers had disputed Mr Grieve's allegations and denied contempt.

A panel of three judges - which includes Lord Judge, the Lord Chief Justice - is expected to announce penalties later. Judges had reserved judgment after listening to arguments from all sides at a hearing in London earlier this month.

The Attorney General said after the ruling: "I welcome this judgment. While there was a great amount of speculation and copy relating to Mr Jefferies across much of the media, these three pieces of newspaper coverage were a different matter. They breached the Contempt of Court Act and the court has found that there was a risk of serious prejudice to any future trial."

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