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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 October 2005, 22:29 GMT 23:29 UK
Football chairman wins libel case
Southampton chairman Rupert Lowe
Southampton chairman Rupert Lowe has won his libel case
Southampton FC chairman Rupert Lowe has won 250,000 libel damages over a newspaper's claim he had behaved "shabbily" in suspending his manager.

Former manager Dave Jones was suspended in the wake of child abuse allegations, for which he was later acquitted.

Mr Lowe, 47, had brought the libel action against the Times' comment in an August 2004 column that he had "shabbily handled" the situation.

Mr Lowe had previously offered to settle the case for 20,000.

It took a High Court jury three hours to reach its unanimous verdict.

Mr Lowe, who described the article as a "real blot" on his character, said he had a "duty to the whole Southampton family" including the shareholders, supporters, the football club's soccer academy and its sponsors.

At the end of the day it is a pity we had to go as far as we did in order to make sure the truth came out
Southampton FC chairman Rupert Lowe

Mr Lowe said outside the High Court in London: "Its been a long eight days and I am just glad that we have been vindicated in what we believed.

"At the end of the day it is a pity we had to go as far as we did in order to make sure the truth came out."

'Fair comment'

In December 2000, Mr Jones stood trial on 21 charges of sexual and physical abuse of children, arising out of an investigation into a Merseyside home.

Mr Jones, now in charge at Cardiff City, worked as a care worker at the home before he went on to forge a career as a football manager. He strenuously denied the charges.

The judge halted the trial after just four days and directed an acquittal.

Times writer Martin Samuel criticised the board's decision to "suspend Mr Jones for 12 months on full pay so he could concentrate on defending the case".

'Gardening leave'

Mr Jones, who was summonsed to give evidence for Times Newspapers Ltd, which denied libel, said that he did not bear a grudge against Mr Lowe.

But he said he received no indication that he did not have the board's full support until Mr Lowe told him he would be on "gardening leave" and Glenn Hoddle would take over from him.

The national newspaper pleaded justification and fair comment.

The case sets an unwelcome precedent for all columnists, who are supposed to have strong views
Robert Thomson, editor of the Times

Mr Samuel said in evidence that the article represented "his honestly-held opinion".

After the verdict, Mr Lowe pledged that any damages would go to charity.

The judge ordered the newspaper to pay Mr Lowe's costs, which were given in court as 225,000, with an interim payment of 112,500 within 14 days.

The judge has granted the newspaper permission to appeal on the amount of damages.

'Cavalier' with facts

Times editor Robert Thomson called for a review of the Britain's libel laws saying the award was a "disproportionate amount for the use of one mild adjective in a single piece of commentary in the sports pages."

"The case sets an unwelcome precedent for all columnists, who are supposed to have strong views on their chosen subjects," he said.

But a spokesman for Mr Lowe's solicitors, Mishcon de Reya, said: "We never wanted to go to court and tried to settle this case from day one.

"The decision of the jury has not only vindicated our clients' reputation but will send a loud and clear message to all newspapers that they cannot hide behind the cloak of fair comment whilst being cavalier with the facts."




SEE ALSO:
Club boss libel case is adjourned
19 Oct 05 |  Hampshire
Times article 'blot on character'
18 Oct 05 |  Hampshire
Club chairman begins libel case
17 Oct 05 |  Hampshire


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