A former Conservative Party treasurer accused of trying to "secure an illegal political donation" by an internet blogger was today awarded £45,000 libel damages by a High Court judge.
Businessman Peter Cruddas had sued after being attacked by Mark Adams in a series of blogs and tweets, a High Court hearing in London had been told.
Adams had apologised and Mr Justice Eady said "allegations of criminality against Mr Cruddas" were false.
The judge added, in a written ruling: "He is entitled to have his reputation vindicated in that respect."
According to Cruddas’ lawyers Adams, a lobbyist and former private secretary to two Prime Ministers, waged a “persistent and public campaign against Peter Cruddas suggesting that he was a criminal, liable to arrest at any time, who had breached the provisions of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 by seeking to secure an illegal political donation for the Conservative Party”.
On 25 March 2012 the Sunday Times published a number of articles about Peter Cruddas in the newspaper and on its website after two undercover journalists posing as potential donors to the Conservative Party had secretly filmed a meeting with him on 15 March 2012.
Adams was said to have claimed credit for introducing the story to the Sunday Times and also for subsequent articles published in the Independent on 9 June 2012.
Cruddas is pursuing a libel action against the Sunday Times which be tried in June 2013 while The Independent made a substantial libel payout to him in November.
Cruddas’s lawyers say Adams repeatedly challenged Cruddas in his blogs and Tweets that if he were not guilty then he should sue Adams for libel.
“When it became clear that nothing else would stop the ongoing defamatory campaign, Peter Cruddas took up that gauntlet and in July 2012 commenced a libel action against Mark Adams in the High Court in London,” his lawyers Russell Jones & Walker said in a statement today.
“Despite his previous taunts and having being given ample opportunity to do so, Mark Adams did not file any defence to the claim. Peter Cruddas’ application for judgment first came before the court on 2 November 2012, a hearing attended by Mark Adams.
“Mr Cruddas’ counsel agreed to allow Adams a further 14 days to consider his position and raise any defence to the action. However, when the court reconvened on 16 November, Adams attended again but still raised no defence and so judgment, with costs, was duly entered against him and he gave his undertaking to the court.
The compensation hearing took place on over two days on 23 and 24 January when both Cruddas and dams gave evidence.
Mr Justice Eady delivered his judgment today when, in addition to awarding Peter Cruddas £45,000, the judge said he could “legitimately record, without fear of contradiction, that the allegations of criminality against Mr Cruddas were indeed false and that he is entitled to have his reputation vindicated in that respect.”
Jeremy Clarke-Williams, who represents Cruddas, said: “The very serious nature of the defamatory campaign pursued by Mark Adams left Peter Cruddas with no option but to accept his invitation to sue him for libel.
“The success of this action against Mark Adams following Peter’s previous successful libel claim against the Independent go a significant way towards restoring his reputation. There now remains his ongoing libel action against The Sunday Times.”
Cruddas said: “I am very pleased that this matter is now successfully concluded. This latest legal victory, which follows the Independent’s earlier decision not to defend itself in relation to the articles it published, further strengthens my resolve for my case against the Sunday Times and I am more determined than ever in my fight for justice and to clear my name.”