Monday, 20 July 2009

My Day in Court 13

Mid-morning on Monday and I'm in court 13 at the Royal Courts of Justice (in the public gallery, not the dock) where Mr Justice Eady is presiding over Desmond v Bower. This is a libel action that Richard Desmond, proprietor of the Daily and Sunday Express, various adult magazines, and owner of several adult cable channels, is bringing against journalist Tom Bower.

Bower’s work includes unauthorised biographies of Robert Maxwell, Mohamed Al-Fayed, Gordon Brown and Richard Branson. This libel case centres on a passing mention of Express proprietor Richard Desmond in the biography he wrote about another newspaper tycoon, Conrad Black. (Black incidentally is now in prison in Florida).

Today’s sessions were almost entirely in the absence of the jury, and reporting restrictions were imposed so I won’t say much here, but this short background is from The Press Gazette:

6 July 2009 - Express Newspapers proprietor Richard Desmond today begins his high court libel battle against biographer Tom Bower. Desmond is suing over a reference to him in Bower's 2007 biography of Conrad Black, the former Daily Telegraph owner currently serving a six-and-a-half year fraud sentence in a Florida jail. The paragraph at the centre of the libel claim relates to Hollinger's shared printing agreement in London between the Daily Telegraph and Express Newspapers.

The start of the trial is subject to initial legal submissions, including a possible hearing in the court of appeal this afternoon. It is unlikely that the case will be reportable until it gets before the jury.

There are further short reports below which are worth reading:

14th July: ”Richard Desmond: 'Damaging for me to look like a wimp'

14th July: Richard Desmond 'prepared to tell lies', court told

15th July: Richard Desmond: 'No vendetta with Conrad Black'

17th July: Conrad Black speaks up for old rival Richard Desmond

20th July: Newspaper tycoon tells business associate 'I will be your worst f***ing enemy'

It’s all very interesting, and quite a juicy tale, and I’ll be back in court tomorrow morning.

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