Mail in libel payout to Catholic aide over abortion claims

A former spokesman for the Roman Catholic Church has been awarded £30,000 in libel damages over a Daily Mail story claiming he was a hypocrite on the subject of abortion.

Austen Ivereigh, the 43-year-old ex-director of public affairs for Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, head of the Church in England and Wales, had complained that he was "unfairly trashed" by the Daily Mail.

He had been "in limbo with his reputation in tatters" since the story appeared in June 2006, although he did not allege that he lost his job because of it, his QC, Ronald Thwaites, told Mr Justice Eady and a jury at London's High Court.

It was the second time that Ivereigh had sued the newspaper after the first trial of the action - a year ago - ended with no verdict after the jury could not agree.

This time, the jurors took three and a half hours to come to their unanimous decision.

Ivereigh said the newspaper accused him of callously manoeuvring two women towards a termination, while publicly condemning the practice, and also meant that he breached canon law and should be excommunicated because he had actively procured an abortion.

Associated Newspapers denied libel and said its story was substantially true and fair comment.

The nine-day case concerned Ivereigh's relationships with Siobhan, a fellow graduate student at Oxford, who had an abortion 20 years ago, and a divorcee, who can only be identified as X, who miscarried his twins in 2006.

Ivereigh said he had heeded a chaplain's advice not to have a shotgun marriage to Siobhan but to help her in every way.

He alleged that it was Siobhan's mother who insisted on marriage or abortion, and that, although he was then a lapsed Catholic, he was "appalled" by the possibility of a termination.

Thwaites said the abortion at eight weeks was a "done-deal" behind Ivereigh's back.

Ivereigh denied the newspaper's claim that he drove with his mother to take Siobhan to the clinic and collect her afterwards.

Siobhan told the court that Ivereigh became cold and evasive when she told him she was pregnant, and offered nothing by way of commitment, leaving her feeling "abandoned and in despair".

She said he seemed relieved when he was told she was considering abortion but her own mother had begged her to wait.

Ivereigh said he had proposed to fellow-Catholic X when she became pregnant but then suggested postponing the marriage when their relationship swiftly deteriorated.

He claimed she wanted nothing more to do with him although he begged her to let him provide practical help with the babies.

X said he backed out of the relationship and his offers of support were not sincere, leaving her no choice but to book an abortion - although she miscarried before it could go ahead.

More details soon...

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