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Wednesday 10 June 2015

Kelvin McFilth Wrong Again

Former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie was contemptuous last month on hearing the level of damages awarded against the Mirror titles as a result of the first round of phone hacking actions. “£188,000? Gascoigne the wife-beater not worth £1.88” thundered the headline, as Kel claimed erroneously that Gazza had in the past been “a flogger of his stories of woe to the popular press”.
Kel paused only to call Mr Justice Mann “certifiably barmy” (mental health smears the usual trusty standby in the absence of facts) before urging readers to “look over there” at statutory awards for injury and then claiming “The Daily Mirror [it wasn’t just the Daily Mirror, Kel] must appeal as they will definitely see substantial reductions - hopefully to nothing in Gascoigne’s case”. Yeah, right.

And so it has not come to pass: the Mirror titles did indeed lodge an appeal against those awards, which totalled £1.2 million for the first eight victims of this particular “dark art”. However, and here we encounter a significantly sized however, added to this must be legal costs, which would take the total to around £10 million. Adding all the other cases coming on down the line, and their costs, would take the total cost to at least £100 million.
Well, the Mirror titles may have thought appealing would be worthwhile, but today they suffered a rather terminal setback: their request for leave to appeal was turned down. That means the awards were, by inference, set at the right level, and there would be no point in revisiting the case. It should also serve as a warning to any other publisher who gets caught playing this particular game. It will be expensive.

Which shows that Kel was the last person to be giving out advice on damages - remember his libelling of Elton John at the Sun (cost in damages: £1 million)? “I think The Sun should have its million quid back. It hasn't damaged him at all, has it? Libel can only have a value if there has been some kind of damage, right? Where is the damage? Where? There's nothing wrong with him. So no, I don't feel bad about him, not at all”.
Kelvin McFilth was wrong then. He was wrong to run that “GOTCHA” headline as hundreds died in the torpedoing of the General Belgrano. He was wrong to go anywhere near the Hillsborough story that caused the Sun’s sales on Merseyside to evaporate - a mistake for which those who live in the area have still not forgiven the Murdoch empire. And now he’s got it totally wrong on the Mirror’s hacking awards.

And what he’s not even bothered considering - given the Mirror’s owners have nothing like the deep pockets of Creepy Uncle Rupe - is that, as I pointed out at the time the awards were made, this could be disastrous for the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and People. Kel got away with libelling anyone and everyone because Rupe wiped his arse for him. There’s no such cover for the Mirror titles. This could put them out of business.

There’s plenty of time for Kelvin McFilth to call that totally wrong, too.

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