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Saturday, 21 April, 2001, 11:53 GMT 12:53 UK
Car hoax backfires for radio station
Renault Clio
Ms McGowan could buy a new Clio with her compensation
A court has awarded 8,000 compensation to a single mum who was duped by a Derbyshire radio station into thinking she had won a new car.

Video shop manager Catherine McGowan, 26, thought she had won a Renault Clio in a competition on Radio Buxton last year.

It was only when she arrived to collect her prize that the DJ handed her a 4-inch model of the car instead.


They used me as a gimmick and to try to get more listeners

Catherine McGowan
Upset and humiliated by the prank, she decided to sue the radio station and was awarded 8,000 compensation by Derby County Court on Friday - the equivalent of the price of a new Clio.

The court has yet to decide who is liable to pay the money.

Ms McGowan, from Buxton, said she was glad the station had leant its lesson.

"They used me as a gimmick and to try to get more listeners," she said.

Humiliated

"I am not making plans for what I am going to do with the money until I have it in my hands, but I certainly won't be entering any more competitions."

The court heard that Ms McGowan had been the victim of a stunt by DJ Chris Constantine, who was contracted by the station.

She correctly identified the hit Look at Me by Geri Halliwell after it was played on air and was told by a station receptionist that she had won.

Ms McGowan turned up to collect the car with her daughter, who burst into tears when she was presented with the model.

Sacked

Constantine then said she would indeed be given a real car, but this turned out to be another joke.

Ms McGowan said she was left humiliated after initially telling friends and family she had won.

Constantine, who also had listeners competing for a model Ferrari F50 and a real bag of crisps, was sacked for the stunt.


Why should this station be allowed to get away with gags like this at peoples' expense?

Mother Pauline McGowan
The station hauled before the Radio Authority, who said it had breached rules governing the way competitions are run.

Station manager Steve Jenner reportedly told The Guardian that Ms McGowan had been misguided in believing the competition was genuine.

"If people believe a car was to be given away, we would have got more than 23 calls, especially when a bag of chips got 17 the previous day."

McGowan's mother, Pauline, who said she encouraged her daughter to enter the competition, said: "It was the principle more than anything.

"Why should this station be allowed to get away with gags like this at people's expense?"

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12 Jan 01 | Wales
Radio phone-in winner sacked
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