Ken Bates £1.5m out of pocket over 'shyster' libel

Leeds United chairman Ken Bates has lost his final bid to appeal against the decision of Sir Charles Gray that he libelled a former director of the club – leaving him facing a total bill for damages and costs estimated in some reports at £1.5 million.

Lord Justice Hooper also rejected Bates’ application at a brief hearing in the Court of Appeal.

He was quoted by the Yorkshire Evening Post as having said that any appeal would be “doomed to failure”.

Jacob Dean, for Bates, had argued that in his original decision Sir Charles Gray had focused on factual inaccuracies in what Bates had written rather than on whether there was a sufficient factual basis for a defence of fair comment.

Bates was ordered in July to pay businessman Melvyn Levi, 65, damages of £50,000 when he lost the libel case.

The litigation sprang from events surrounding the acquisition of Leeds United Football Club in 2005 by a consortium led by Bates.

At the heart of the case were three articles by Bates which appeared in the Leeds United programme in 2006 and 2007, and a letter to club members in August 2007.

Levi claimed they all contained “grave and offensive” libels which seriously injured his reputation.

In July Sir Charles held that Bates, 78, who had denied libel, had failed in his defences of justification and fair comment.

The judge said the £P50,000 damages he awarded Levi was in respect of the three match programmes “where the defences failed”.

Levi lost his claim over the letter as Sir Charles ruled that it was covered by qualified privilege.

The judge said the factors he took into account when calculating the damages included the “gravity of the libels”, the fact that they were repeated “on several occasions over a period of 10 months”, and the fact that Bates “sought unsuccessfully to justify his statements about Levi and continued to do so in a public trial lasting many days”.

The “sting” of one of the publications lay in the reference to Levi as a “shyster”, he said, adding: “That term would in my judgment have been understood to mean that Mr Levi is someone

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