Friday, January 30, 2009

Daily Mail pays out after alleging former Catholic PR man was hypocrite

A former spokesman for the Catholic church has won £30,000 libel damages today at the high court after claiming he was "unfairly trashed" by an article in the Daily Mail accusing him of being a hypocrite over abortion.

Ronald Thwaites QC told Mr Justice Eady at the high court in London that his client, 43-year-old Dr Austen Ivereigh, ex-director of public affairs for Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, had been "in limbo with his reputation in tatters" since the Daily Mail story appeared in June 2006.

A libel action that Ivereigh brought against the paper last year ended with no verdict after the jury could not agree.

This timeIn the retrial that concluded today, the jurors took three-and-a-half hours to decide unanimously in his favour.

Ivereigh had earlier told the libel trial that the newspaper had accused him of callously manoeuvring two women into terminating pregnancies, while publicly condemning the practice, which meant that he would have breached canon law and should be excommunicated for actively procuring an abortion.

Associated Newspapers, publisher of the Daily Mail, had denied libel and said its story was substantially true and fair comment.

The nine-day case concerned Ivereigh's relationships with two women. The first with a woman called Siobhan, a fellow graduate student at Oxford, who had an abortion 20 years ago and a second with a divorcee, identified as X, who miscarried his twins in 2006.

In the case of Siobhan, Ivereigh alleged her mother had insisted on marriage or abortion after news of the pregnancy emerged and that, although he was then a lapsed Catholic, he was "appalled" by the possibility of a termination.

The woman, known only as Siobhan, earlier told the court that Ivereigh had became cold and evasive when she told him she was pregnant leaving her feeling "abandoned and in despair". She said he seemed relieved when he was told she was considering abortion, but her mother had begged her to wait.

Ivereigh denied the Daily Mail's claim that he then drove with his own mother to take Siobhan to the abortion clinic and collect her afterwards. Thwaites said the abortion at eight weeks was a "done deal" behind Ivereigh's back.

After fellow Catholic X fell pregnant, Ivereigh said he had proposed to her but when their relationship deteriorated he suggested postponing the marriage.

He claimed X wanted nothing more to do with him, despite him begging her to let him provide practical help with the babies. However, X said he had backed out of the relationship and his offers of support were not sincere, leaving her no choice but to book an abortion – although she miscarried before it could go ahead.

An Associated Newspapers spokesman said: "We are extremely disappointed with the outcome. We published what we considered to be an important story in the public interest."

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(Source: DMUK)