Hamilton backers may be liable for pounds 2.5m bill

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CONTRIBUTORS TO the legal fund to support Neil Hamilton in his libel action against Mohamed Al Fayed may be held liable for pounds 2.5m in costs.

The donors are seen under law as "maintainers" who have sustained Mr Hamilton in hislegal actions against the Harrods owner over "cash for questions" allegations, and will be held accountable for payment if the former MP for Tatton files for bankruptcy.

The development came as more supporters' names began to emerge, including the Earl of Portsmouth, and it was revealed that the Hamiltons' legal bill was far higher than had been thought.

The judge, Mr Justice Morland, awarded costs against Mr Hamilton over the action, which has dragged on for five years. Mr Fayed's side has only had to make one payment to Mr Hamilton, of about pounds 60,000, after failing at a Court of Appeal hearing in March last year.

Mr Hamilton was also ordered to disclose the names of anyone who had donated more than pounds 5,000. But Lord Harris of High Cross, one of those running the fund, said he would rather face prison than identify donors. He said: "At the moment I am highly disinclined to give any names. If it was a question of a week in jail for contempt of court then I suppose I would have to do it."

Just how liable individual members of the fund would be will have to be decided by the judge. However, legal experts said that liability does not stop with the amount pledged or given, but only when the whole sum had been recovered.

Further reports, page 2