A McKenzie friend has been accused of pouring ‘more fuel on the flames’ during a High Court defamation case involving Blackpool Football Club.
In a damages judgment in Oyston & Anor v Ragozzino, a High Court judge said a defendant in person had allowed himself to be used as a ‘mouthpiece’ by his McKenzie friend.
The case centred on claims Blackpool Football Club fan David Ragozzino had made on a website against the club’s owners, Owen and Karl Oyston. The claims included ‘lurid allegations of a sexual nature’ and allegations of ‘fraudulent and corrupt behaviour’.
His Honour Judge Stephen Davies ruled that his claims were defamatory and said Owen and Karl Oyston should be awarded aggravated damages, in part due to Ragozzino’s conduct in the case, which was worsened by the presence of his McKenzie friend.
During proceedings Ragozzino refused to apologise and said he would justify his claims. Instead he made other allegations of dishonest and discreditable behaviour against the club owners and the club itself, and sent a ‘whole sheaf’ of correspondence making further insinuations against the club owners, which the judge said were in some respects worse than the original postings.
One email was sent to Karl Oyston’s wife on 20 July, which she described as ‘savage, abusive and obscene’.
Davies said that much of the correspondence appeared to have emanated from Ragozzino’s McKenzie friend, identified in the judgment as Mr Reed. However he added that in many instances Ragozzino expressly associated himself with the correspondence.
He said: ‘It is clear to me from reading this documentation and from observing Mr Ragozzino and Mr Reed in court that he has not been at all well-served by the assistance of Mr Reed as his McKenzie friend, since Mr Reed has been responsible for pouring yet more fuel on the flames rather than assisting Mr Ragozzino to present his defence with suitable moderation.’
He said the allegations made against the club owners were ‘extremely serious’ and said both were entitled to aggravated damages due to Ragozzino’s malice and the conduct of the case. He ordered Ragozzino to pay damages of £20,000 each to Karl and Owen Oyston, and a further £1,000 to Blackpool FC.