A court has agreed to a litigant retrospectively paying a higher court fee to secure a greater damages award in a defamation case.
In Harrath v Stand for Peace Ltd, Sir David Eady (pictured) said the claimant’s appropriate award was £140,000.
Eady said the claim form had indicated that claimant Harrath expected to recover no more than £10,000, but he said civil procedure rule 16.3(7) did not restrict the eventual compensation. ‘This [rule] does not limit the power of the court to give judgment for the amount which it finds the claimant is entitled to recover,’ said the judge.
‘The claimant made clear he is quite willing to pay any additional fee if necessary.’
Claimants are required to pay 5% of their damages in court fees: the original declaration would have resulted in a £500 fee, but this would increase to £7,000 under the prescribed damages.
The Gazette understands that the parties are waiting to hear what fee the court will enforce.
The case is one of the first of its kind where the implementation of court fees introduced in the past four years has been tested in court.
Eady said the increased damages were justified to leave no doubt in the mind of a reasonable onlooker of Harrath’s ‘entitlement to vindication’.
The claimant, who founded the television channel Islam Channel, had been described as a ‘convicted terrorist’ in an online article, which was not true.
Eady noted how the defendants’ cases had ‘crumbled’ by March last year and they acknowledged that the claimant was innocent of any offences they had linked him with.
The judge said the case was ‘undoubtedly aggravated’ by the attitude of the second defendant, Samuel Westrop, and his solicitors.
Solicitors’ letters were ‘unnecessarily combative, dismissive and aggressive’, describing Harrath’s complaint as ‘ludicrous’, ‘utterly misconceived’ and ‘doomed to fail’.
Eady added: ‘From a defendant’s point of view it is unwise to mount a defence of truth, where the charge is one such as terrorism, unless there is solid evidence available. Yet that is what they did.’