A Hampshire estate owner has accepted £25,000 in libel damages at London’s High Court over a Daily Mail story that claimed he cut off the water supply to local villagers.
Henry John Marriott sued the Associated Newspapers title over a story published on 5 April headlined: “Millionaire cuts off his villagers’ water (but he’ll sell them a barrelful for £250).”
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Marriott’s solicitor, John Rubinstein, said the article reported changes to the private water supply arrangements at Tangley in Hampshire, where Marriott and his wife own Tangley Estate and are the principals of Tangley Water LLP.
Rubinstein said the article accused Marriott of ‘meanly choosing to cut off the water supply to villagers on his estate and leave them high and dry without water.”
He added : ‘He was also accused of repeatedly treating his neighbours badly.”
Rubenstein said that Associated Newspapers now acknowledged the errors and apologised for the ‘distress and embarrassment’caused to Mr Marriott and his family.
He said that Tangley Water was making ‘a significant loss, not a profit as stated in the article.’
He continued: ‘Mr Marriott subsidised the supply of water to Tangley Water consumers from July 2004 until August 2006 and thereafter none of the Tangley Water consumers, including those who complained about the changers in supply, was charged for water or the cost of its supply up to 30 March 2008.
‘Mr Marriott did not make a general offer to villagers to sell a barrelful of water for £250.”
Neither, he said, had villagers been ‘forced’to drill their own boreholes, though he said that a limited number of consumers, none of whom lived in Tangley, had preferred to drill their own boreholes.
The Mail’s solicitor, Holly Havers told Mr Justice Eady that the publisher accepted that the errors and the article as a whole gave a false portrayal of Marriott’s behaviour.
‘It acknowledges that Mr Marriott made strenuous efforts to put in place a fair and workable solution to Tangley’s uneconomic water system,” she said.
“The defendant sincerely apologises to Mr Marriott and his family for the distress and embarrassment which its article has caused them.”
In addition to the damages, the paper will also foot Marriott’s legal costs.