Former child actor Mark Lester – who starred in the 1968 film version of the musical Oliver – is seeking damages of £150,000 from Associated Newspapers alleging libel and invasion of privacy over a story about his divorce.
Lester, now an osteopath, is demanding damages of £150,000 from publishers Associated Newspapers over a story headed: ‘A Very Twisted Marriage’in the Daily Mail and ‘Why I am locked in a brutal divorce with my wife, by Oliver star Mark Lester”, on the Mail website.
In a High Court writ Lester says the stories accused him of violently assaulting his ex wife during their relationship, and of allowing his three-year-old son to sleep in the same bedroom as Michael Jackson, putting him at risk of sexual abuse.
The allegations left him hurt and embarrassed, and caused immense distress to his children, which in turn caused him further distress, he says. He has been particularly upset by derogatory comments his children have received about him from their peers after the stories were published in March.
The story referred to an extract from a confidential social worker’s letter prepared for court proceedings, which his former wife disclosed to the Daily Mail, the writ says.
Lester says he had a reasonable expectation that the information in the letter would be kept confidential and private, and says the paper is liable for disclosure of the information in the letter.
Lester, whose practice is in Cheltenham, says he is also entitled to aggravated damages, because of the gravity of the allegations, the massive hurt and embarrassment he has suffered, the distress his children have suffered, the serious breach of his privacy, and the damage to his professional reputation. He is a healthcare professional and an allegation of violent assault is extremely damaging, the writ says.
The Daily Mail has refused to apologise or retract the claims – the writ states, and he fears that unless restrained by injunction, the paper will repeat the allegations.
He is seeking damages for libel and misuse of private information as well as an injunction banning the paper from repeating the allegations at the centre of his claim. He is being represented by David Price Solicitors and Advocates.