Footballer gets 'derisory' £1 damages

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Daniel Taylor, company solicitor for News Group Newspapers, said after the law lords’ majority 4-1 verdict last week: "Bruce Grobbelaar has been awarded the derisory sum of £1 by the House of Lords after an eight-year battle to clear his name. To quote the most senior law lord, Lord Bingham, "he acted in a way in which no decent or honest footballer would act and in a way which could, if not stamped on, undermine the integrity of a game that enjoys the loyalty and support of millions".
"By recovering the sum of only £1, he has, as stated in the ruling, ‘effectively lost his action to clear his name’ and may face legal costs of over a million pounds."
The issue of costs has been reserved for further argument.
The Sun published allegations of bribe-taking against Grobbelaar, supported by video evidence. He sued for libel and in 1999 was given damages of £85,000 in the High Court.
The Appeal Court reversed the verdict, saying it was perverse, and ordered the footballer to pay £1.2m towards The Sun’s costs.
The House of Lords allowed his appeal, but Lord Bingham said: "It would be an affront to justice if a court of law were to award substantial damages to a man shown to have acted in such a flagrant breach of his legal and moral obligations."
The majority verdict accepted that he had "corruptly accepted money" but found that The Sun had not proved he had let in goals for money.
Lord Bingham said: "Mr Grobbelaar may have no reputation to lose but that does not make him an object of ridicule, fair game for every slander that an imaginative journalist can concoct."
Lord Steyn dissented from the majority verdict, saying: "As a systematic taker of bribes to fix football matches, he is not entitled to a verdict on liability on the grounds that it was never proved that he deliberately let in goals."

Jean Morgan

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