Ex-Tory official wins libel award
Former Conservative Party co-treasurer Peter Cruddas has won £180,000 damages in his High Court libel action over a Sunday Times allegation about charging £250,000 to meet David Cameron.
The 59-year-old businessman brought the claim against Times Newspapers Ltd and two members of the newspaper's Insight team over three articles which appeared in March 2012.
He complained they meant that in return for cash donations to the Conservative Party, he corruptly offered for sale the opportunity to influence government policy and gain unfair advantage through secret meetings with the Prime Minister and other senior ministers.
During the litigation, the Court of Appeal ruled "corruptly" meant "inappropriate, unacceptable and wrong and gave rise to an impression of impropriety".
He also said they meant he made the offer even though he knew the money offered for meetings was to come, in breach of the ban under UK electoral law, from Middle Eastern investors in a Liechtenstein fund and was happy that the foreign donors should use deceptive devices to conceal the true source of the donation.
The newspaper, which also has to make a £500,000 costs payment by mid-August, had pleaded justification. Mr Cruddas also succeeded in his claim for malicious falsehood but no separate damages award was made in respect of that.
Mr Cruddas said later: "The dark cloud that has hung over me and my family since the Sunday Times published its malicious lies about me 16 months ago has finally been lifted and justice has been done.
"I hope my victory shows that this type of journalism employed by the Sunday Times and its journalists Heidi Blake and Jonathan Calvert is totally unacceptable, particularly post Leveson."
Former Conservative treasurer and major donor Lord Ashcroft said the party "needs to learn major lessons from this debacle".
Conservative chairman Grant Shapps repeatedly refused to apologise on behalf of the party for the way Mr Cruddas was treated. He told reporters: "I think Peter Cruddas did exactly the right thing. He has pursued this through the courts and got the outcome that he wanted, the right outcome as well, and good luck to him."