Standard runs feature in £100k libel deal

The Evening Standard has printed a sympathetic two-page feature about a dead playwright’s mistress as part of a libel deal which cost the paper an estimated £100,000.

The unusual settlement saw the Standard agree to write the piece, with copy approval for the complainant, instead of publishing an apology.

Jo Capece Minutolo was the mistress of playwright Anthony Shaffer, whose filmed works included Sleuth and The Wicker Man. After his death in November 2001, a legal wrangle resulted in Minutolo failing to get a share of the writer’s estate.

She sued the Standard after it published an article on 10 July 2002 that suggested she was “an opportunist who had deliberately pretended to have had a relationship with Anthony Shaffer when in fact she was merely a hired researcher”.

A statement agreed in open court said: “This suggestion is entirely untrue.”

The paper agreed to pay Minutolo damages of £35,000; when both sides’ legal bills are included the cost to the paper is likely to reach £100,000.

Last Wednesday the Standard published a two-page feature in which Minutolo spoke of her time living with Shaffer and their relationship.

Her lawyer Graham Atkins, from Campbell Hooper, said: “In lieu of an apology, I negotiated a two-page positive and sympathetic article in the Evening Standard with my client.

Obviously, compared with a small but prominent apology, this is preferable to my client as she gets the opportunity to tell her whole story.”

The Standard said: “Ms Minutolo’s unsuccessful claim against Anthony Shaffer’s estate generated a lot of interest in her story and we were pleased that she chose us for her exclusive.

The payment was partly damages and partly for the exclusive.”

By Dominic Ponsford

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