Charity pledge could influence jury in setting libel damages

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The jurors
who awarded £250,000 damages against The Times because the newspaper
branded a football club chairman “shabby” may have been moved to do so
because they knew the cash would go to charity.

This was the view
of Desmond Browne, QC, speaking about the November libel trial payout
to Southampton Football Club chairman Rupert Lowe, who sued over a
comment piece about his decision to suspend club manager Dave Jones.
The payout set a new modern record for libel damages.

Browne
speculated that the damages total could have been limited if the judge
had been asked to give the jury a firm bracket within which to set
their total.

He advised lawyers: “Don’t allow the jury to know a
claimant’s intention to give the money to charity. In crossexamination
it emerged this is just what Mr Lowe was going to do.

“The jury
may have felt they could put their hands in Mr Murdoch’s pocket and
give straight to charity. It is not a result that I think will be
repeated.”

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