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Blackpool Football Club chairman wins £30,000 libel damages from abusive fan

Published 09/05/2016

Blackpool Football Club chairman Karl Oyston and his wife had been the subject of online abuse
Blackpool Football Club chairman Karl Oyston and his wife had been the subject of online abuse

The chairman of Blackpool Football Club has won £30,000 libel damages from an abusive fan.

Karl Oyston brought proceedings against Stephen Reed over material posted on a website called Back Henry Street, which is used by followers of the club, in June 2015.

Mr Justice Langstaff in the High Court said that Mr Reed was among fans who were concerned with the way in which the club was managed since Mr Oyston's father, Owen, was involved in its purchase.

Karl Oyston and his wife, Victoria, had been the subject of online abuse - some of which had come from the group of which Mr Reed was part - which had caused them concern and distress, and he wanted it to stop.

The posting said that Mr Oyston entered into a foul-mouthed rant at Mr Reed in public, held a gun in such a way as to make Mr Reed believe he was about to shoot at him and had assaulted Mr Reed and put him in fear for his safety or even his life.

Judgment for Mr Oyston was entered in August 2015 and Mr Reed now accepted that Mr Oyston had not brandished a gun at him - although he maintained he had not told lies about the incident since he had given his honest opinion.

In a ruling on damages on Monday, the judge said that Mr Oyston's conduct during the incident was blameless and the untrue libel was seen by a substantial number of viewers.

He added that further libel had not been discouraged by an award in an earlier action brought by Mr Oyston against another supporter, David Ragozzino.

It was plain from the considerable body of support for Mr Reed when the case was heard in Manchester that a number of local people were keen to believe matters derogatory of Mr Oyston which they thought might be true - even if with more careful thought they would reject them.

"The effect of allegations such as those made in the present case appears to have been to stir up, and maintain, resentment of and hostility toward the claimant so long as he remains involved with the running of Blackpool."

The extent of the publication, the continued repetition of untruths, the aggravation of it by sending a "scurrilous" letter to Mrs Oyston, the distress and hurt caused and the need for vindication required an award of £30,000.

Mr Reed, who says he is an undischarged bankrupt, was also ordered to pay Mr Oyston's costs.

The judge said that, while he was preparing his ruling, he received a document from Mr Reed which alleged that Mr Oyston had been guilty of perjury, had deceived successive High Court judges and was not a fit person to hold a fire arms certificate.

He said he doubted that the communication could have any purpose but to seek to influence him against Mr Oyston.

"It has had the opposite effect so far as my willingness to grant an injunction is concerned, since it emphasises the very real and continuing risk that, unless restrained by the threat of imprisonment for contempt, the defendant will continue to make similar accusations against Mr Oyston."

He said that Mr Reed should be under no illusion that he would be in contempt of court and liable to imprisonment if he repeated the libel or committed any further acts of harassment against Mr Oyston or his wife.

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