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Thursday, 9 March, 2000, 11:10 GMT
Currie wins 'vilest lady' libel case
High court
Judge ordered damages, costs and an apology
Former Conservative MP Edwina Currie has won "substantial" libel damages and an apology after The Express branded her "the vilest lady in Britain".

The High Court in London heard that a September 1997 item by the newspaper's political columnist Peter Oborne said there were rumours sweeping Westminster that Mrs Currie was about to join the Labour Party to breathe new life into her "clapped out" political career.

Edwina Currie
Rumours of political defection were untrue
Mr Oborne wrote that she would be no more acceptable to Tony Blair's new Labour administration than "a mass murderer", a "serial rapist" or "an active officer in Radovan Karadzic's death squad".

Mrs Currie, now a novelist and a BBC Radio 5Live presenter, was particularly upset by the headline "How Edwina is now the vilest lady in Britain", which could have been taken to compare her unfavourably with murderers Myra Hindley and Rosemary West, said her counsel, Edward Garnier QC.

She was unaware of rumours she was about to leave the Conservative Party which were, in any event, untrue.

Other offensive allegations in the article had been put to Mrs Currie in TV and radio interviews as though they were established facts, he told Mr Justice Morland.

Apology

Solicitor Kate Macmillan, for the newspaper, expressed its "sincere regret" that the article had caused Mrs Currie upset and damage.

"The article and headline in particular were not meant to be taken literally but were intended to be a strong piece of political comment," he said.

The newspaper now accepted without reservation the headline - not written by Mr Oborne - and parts of the article went beyond "fair comment".

Mrs Currie, MP for South Derbyshire from 1983 to 1997 and junior health minister from 1986 to 1988, also received her legal costs from the paper.

Afterwards Mrs Currie, who was in court for the brief hearing, grinned and said: "I'm delighted it's done and delighted it's over. I never wanted a fight with The Express."

Asked to confirm if the damages figure was in the region of 50,000, she would only comment: "It's enough. I'm satisfied."

A spokesman for the newspaper said Ms Currie had been awarded 30,000 damages plus costs.

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