Anne Diamond’s ex-husband Mike Hollingsworth today won £75,000 damages over “the big lie” that he struck the first blow during the drink-fuelled row which ended his affair with DJ Harriet Scott.
The former TV executive and agent, who now works for Cancer Research UK, remained impassive as a libel jury returned its unanimous verdict after a five day trial before Mr Justice Eady.
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Heart FM breakfast show presenter Scott, who had branded her former lover an “utter monster” during her evidence for Associated Newspapers, was not at London’s High Court.
In the January 2006 interview with Scott in the Daily Mail, freelance journalist Rebecca Hardy said: “She (Scott) maintains Hollingsworth hit her first. She is utterly adamant when she says this.”
Hollingsworth’s QC, Ronald Thwaites, said that in fact, 61-year-old Hollingsworth was “comprehensively beaten up” by Scott, 26 years his junior, before he slapped her once.
He said that during a birthday party at Hallowe’en 1998, Scott blackened her lover’s eye and loosened a tooth when she flew at him with her fists and lunged at his throat “like a tiger” before kicking him repeatedly in the shins until they resembled “tenderised meat”.
Hollingsworth then tried to stop her by slapping her face, splitting her lip, and later drove them both to a police station after she renewed her attack during the car journey back to the hotel where they had earlier had sex.
Scott, who was subpoenaed by the newspaper, which denied libel and pleaded justification, said that Hollingsworth, was “very controlling” and wanted to leave the party early.
She alleged that he punched her in the mouth and to the side of the head after she pushed him during an agitated row about him being “boring” – before she slapped him.
She claimed that he later gave her a Chinese burn on the arm.
“It felt like my skin was going to rip. I was in such pain I just couldn’t talk. He was an utter monster – completely aggressive and I didn’t know when it was going to stop.”
After the jury returned its verdict and awarded Hollingsworth damages of £75,000, the jurors were then told by the judge that he could only recover £50,000 of that sum.
He explained that this was because Hollingsworth’s claim had been limited to £50,000.
The judge said: “Nothing can take away the fact that the jury assessed the damages at £75,000, but it seems to me to be right in principle, since the claim was limited to £50,000, that judgment should be entered for £50,000.”
Thwaites said Scott was an unreliable witness “because, on her own admission, alcohol is her drug and she loves to get drunk”.
On the night of the party, Scott “was blotto, she was out of it, she had far too much to drink and for some reason, she went totally out of control”.
Hollingsworth had come to court to nail the “big lie” which had followed him since.
The newspaper’s counsel, Bernard Livesey QC, had argued that the article about a “domestic spat” was not defamatory at all.
It did not make an assertion of the truth, although the facts contained in it were true.
“It was merely an account of what one person was saying about the other when there was another side of the story.”
Scott had said that at the time of the incident, she was already unhappy in the three-month relationship with Hollingsworth, who was also her agent at the time.
She could not remember exactly what or how much she drank that night, but she said she would not have drunk to excess as she wanted to see in the birthday toast at midnight.
Hollingsworth said in evidence that he drank up to eight glasses of wine that evening.
Afterwards, a smiling Hollingsworth, of Walton Street, Oxford, who was accompanied by his partner of eight years, Kimberley Stewart-Mole, said he wished the matter had never come to court.
“The Daily Mail published a libel and I asked them to retract and print a correction and I would have been very happy if they had just done that. I wasn’t looking for money.”
He added: “You can see the jury felt very clearly that my version of events was correct and Harriet Scott’s was not and – frankly – I hope I never hear the name ‘Harriet Scott’ again.”
He said that giving evidence was very uncomfortable.
“I didn’t want to engage in a personal slanging match. It was turned into that by the Daily Mail.”
A statement issued on behalf of the newspaper said: “The Daily Mail told the court that it defended this case because it believed from the outset of this litigation that Harriet Scott was telling the truth, and that she had been assaulted in a unprovoked attack by Mr Hollingsworth. Violence towards women is always unacceptable.
“It took considerable courage for Miss Scott to go into the witness box to recount what she says happened that day and to deal with deeply unpleasant cross examination on aspects of her private life.
“The Daily Mail of course accept the jury’s verdict, although we are disappointed by it.”