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Friday, 15 December, 2000, 14:54 GMT
Hamilton appeal decision reserved
neil and christine hamilton
Neil Hamilton and his Christine attended throughout
The Court of Appeal has reserved its decision on a bid by Neil Hamilton to overturn a libel ruling.

Mr Hamilton had urged Lord Phillips, the Master of the Rolls, sitting with Lord Justice Sedley and Lady Justice Hale, to set aside the High Court jury's verdict which concluded a five-week trial a year ago and enter judgment for him.

The judges did not give a date for announcing their decision, but it could be as early as next week.

Mr Hamilton had sued for libel over claims made by Mohamed Al-Fayed in a January 1997 Channel 4 Dispatches programme that he had corruptly demanded and accepted cash payments, gift vouchers and a free holiday at the Paris Ritz in return for asking parliamentary questions on behalf of Harrods.

It's hard to imagine a more serious abuse of process

Anthony Boswood QC
The former Conservative MP for Tatton, who dismissed the allegations as a pack of lies, faced an estimated 2m costs bill after losing the action.

At the Court of Appeal this week, Mr Hamilton accused Mr Al-Fayed of "gross impropriety".

The Harrods boss was involved in paying 10,000 for legal documents taken from dustbins outside the chambers of Mr Hamilton's lawyers, he alleged.

"It's hard to imagine a more serious abuse of process than to obtain and pay for confidential and privileged material belonging to the other side's legal team because it completely undermines any confidence in the fairness of the trial, " Mr Hamilton's counsel Anthony Boswood QC told the court.

But Mr Al-Fayed told the judges he had no knowledge of the documents.

This was a race that was truly won without the benefit of artificial aids

Michael Beloff QC

He would never involve himself in anything that was not "straightforward and honest", he said.

Mr Al-Fayed's counsel, Michael Beloff QC, dismissed Mr Hamilton's case as "so flimsy" that it did not require factual rebuttal.

Dismissing the importance of the documents to the trial, Mr Beloff said that they were in the dustbins because they lacked "the sensitivity or confidentiality which made it necessary for them to be shredded".

"This was a race that was truly won without the benefit of artificial aids and the verdict should stand in Mr Al-Fayed's favour," he concluded.

At the end of a five-day hearing in London, attended throughout by his wife Christine, Mr Hamilton, 51, said he hoped to restore his reputation.

"If we get what we are asking - not just to quash the verdict but to reverse it - then it would be the equivalent of winning the original libel action," he concluded.

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See also:

21 Dec 99 | UK Politics
Profile: Neil Hamilton
21 Dec 99 | UK
Profile: Mohamed al-Fayed
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