Two vicars win Times libel damages over 'love-split scandal' allegations

Two vicars today accepted High Court libel damages and an apology from The Times over an article which said their relationship had scandalised parishioners.

The Revs Tana Riviere and Royston Such, who married in August 1995, were particularly outraged as it was the third time that the newspaper had published the false allegation.

They were also upset that it had chosen to do so when reporting the burning down of Such's church, St Peter in Ropley, Hampshire, the couple's counsel, William Bennett, told Mr Justice Warby.

The story – "Love-split scandal vicar sees church burn to the ground" – which appeared in June, said that in the 1990s, Such had scandalised his parishioners and caused them to abandon him because he had left the mother of his five children for the Rev Riviere, who was wrongly described as his "married" curate.

Bennett told Mr Justice Warby in London: "In fact, by the time the couple met the Rev Riviere was a widow.

"Furthermore, the Rev Such's former wife had left him in October 1994. He then divorced her on the grounds of her admitted adultery.

"The relationship between the Reverends Such and Riviere was always a proper one and in keeping with the rules of the church."

Bennett said the newspaper had previously published the allegation in 1996 and again in 1997.

Each time, it published an apology which acknowledged the allegation was false. The couple had been assured in emphatic terms in 1997 that steps would be taken to ensure that the false allegations was never published again.

Bennett said Times Newspapers had again agreed to ensure that the mistake was not repeated, sincerely apologised for the upset and distress caused and had agreed to pay the couple damages and their costs.

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