Actor and singer Jimmy Nail has been left facing a possible legal bill of up to £200,000 after a judge awarded him less than he was seeking in a libel action over alleged “obscene and depraved sexual behaviour”.
Mr Justice Eady said Nail’s claim was “disproportionate” when measured against the sums awarded to victims of personal injuries, such as brain damage.
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He awarded the Auf Wiedersehen Pet star only £30,000 damages in his libel action over allegations in an unauthorised biography in 1998 and in the News of the World four years later.
Nail had claimed up to £100,000 over the allegations that he had taken part in secret bondage orgies.
Book publisher HarperCollins and News Group Newspapers paid £37,000 into court in an effort to settle the case ahead of the hearing.
They say this will leave Nail to pay the lion’s share of the costs, although the exact division of the estimated £200,000 total lawyers’ bill is to be decided at a later hearing.
Nail had claimed in the witness box that he was left “sick to the pit of my stomach” when he saw the headline “Auf Wiedersehen Jim’s secret bondage orgies” in his local newsagent. He told the High Court how, even though he knew the allegations, taken from Geraint Jones’s 1998 book Nailed: The Biography of Jimmy Nail, were false, he was made to feel like “some kind of sexually debased beast”.
The publisher had already accepted that the allegations were untrue, and apologised, but the case went to court on the issue of how much Nail should receive in damages.
Awarding him only £22,500 in respect of the newspaper article, and £7,500 in respect of the unauthorised biography, Mr Justice Eady said: “The impact of Sunday tabloid coverage can be very frightening and disorienting.
“Nevertheless, the range of damages sought by the claimant’s solicitors was very high. It was put at between £70,000 and £100,000. One only has to test it against the sort of personal injuries that would attract such an award to see that it would be disproportionate.”
By Roger Pearson