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The BBC's Jane Peel
"Mr Hamilton says it is 'justice in wonderland"
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Former Conservative MP, Neil Hamilton
"In one sense, I won"
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Thursday, 21 December, 2000, 16:33 GMT
Neil Hamilton loses libel appeal
neil and christine hamilton
Christine Hamilton has supported her husband Neil throughout
Former Tory MP Neil Hamilton has lost his appeal against last year's crushing cash-for-questions libel defeat.

The decision comes a year to the day after a bitter five-week High Court contest against Mohammed Al Fayed which left the former Tatton MP with an estimated 2m costs bill.

This is justice in wonderland

Neil Hamilton

Police confirmed on Thursday that the former head of security at Harrods had been arrested in connection with the theft of tapes used during the libel trial.

Speaking outside the High Court after his failed appeal, Mr Hamilton said: "This is justice in wonderland and I am utterly astonished at this result".

Asked by reporters if this was the end of the line, he said "not necessarily".

Mr Hamilton said he would consult his lawyers about the possibility of pursuing his case at the Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

A spokesman for Mr Al Fayed's lawyers said their client, currently on holiday, was "delighted" at the court's decision.

Imminent bankruptcy

Mr Hamilton had wanted Lord Phillips, the Master of the Rolls, Lord Justice Sedley and Lady Justice Hale to set aside the verdict and enter judgement for him.

He also sought a change in the crippling costs order which means he is facing imminent bankruptcy.

Mr Hamilton had sued over claims made by Mr 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.

He had dismissed the allegations as a "pack of lies".

In the appeal, Mr Hamilton accused Mr Al Fayed of "gross impropriety" at the time of the trial.

Michael Beloff QC, for Mr Al Fayed, said the Hamilton case was "so flimsy" as not to require factual rebuttal.

Even if the trial judge and jury were misled, the most that 51-year-old Mr Hamilton was entitled to was a retrial, said counsel.

I feel that I have been punched in the stomach and robbed

Christine Hamilton
The Hamiltons showed no emotion at the announcement of the judgement on Thursday.

Asked outside court after the decision if he was bankrupt, Mr Hamilton said: "Not as we speak, no."

He stressed that "I didn't come to court to make money".

His wife, Christine, stood alongside him and said: "I feel that I have been punched in the stomach and robbed. I am basically quite speechless. I feel physically sick."


In a separate development, the former head of security at Harrods has been arrested in connection with the theft of audio tapes used during the Neil Hamilton libel trial, police sources said today.

Robert Loftus, 59, a former major in the Royal Military Police, was detained at his home in Spalding, Lincolnshire, on Wednesday morning.

Scotland Yard confirmed a man in his 50s had been arrested and bailed to return to a police station in March.

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