Chris Cairns wins £90,000 over fix claims

 

Former New Zealand cricket captain Chris Cairns won £90,000 libel damages today over an accusation of match-fixing which he said turned his achievements to "dust".

The 41-year-old, who notched up the rare double of 200 wickets and 3,000 runs in his 62 Tests, had sued Lalit Modi, ex-chairman of Twenty20 franchise the Indian Premier League (IPL), over an "unequivocal allegation" on Twitter in January 2010.

He was not at London's High Court for the ruling by Mr Justice Bean, who heard the case without a jury.

The judge said that Modi had "singularly failed" to provide any reliable evidence that Cairns was involved in match-fixing or spot- fixing, or even that there were strong grounds for suspicion that he was.

He said: "It is obvious that an allegation that a professional cricketer is a match-fixer goes to the core attributes of his personality and, if true, entirely destroys his reputation for integrity.

"The allegation is not as serious as one of involvement in terrorism or sexual offences (to take two examples from recent cases). But it is otherwise as serious an allegation as anyone could make against a professional sportsman."

The judge heard that Modi's tweet was picked up by cricket website Cricinfo.

When Cairns complained, Cricinfo withdrew its report, paid damages and apologised - but Modi declined to apologise and pleaded justification, maintaining that the charge was true.

Cairns's case was that it was "wholly untrue" and a very grave libel which could destroy all he had achieved over a distinguished 20-year career.

In evidence, he said: "The defendant's allegations have also had a profound effect on my personal and private life.

"It put a strain on my marriage. It hurts that my wife may think that I am not the man she thought I was.

"It hurts me too that friends, many of whom are former cricketing foes, will question my integrity as a man and a sportsman and that all I achieved in the great game of cricket is dust."

In 2007 and 2008, Cairns captained the Chandigarh Lions in three competitions in the Indian Cricket League (ICL), which flourished briefly before the ascendancy of the IPL.

The allegation made by Modi related to the second and third of these competitions, between March and April 2008 and October and November that year.

Later, Cairns said in a statement: "Today's verdict lifts a dark cloud that has been over me for the past two years. I feel mixed emotions.

"Firstly, sadness that I should ever have had to put myself, my friends and my family through this because of one man's misdirected allegations.

"But I also feel great joy because my past career has come through unscathed and remains intact and because I had the courage to stand up in the highest court to defend my name."

He added: "Lastly, I feel great relief that I am able to walk into any cricket ground in the world with my head held high."

The judge granted Modi permission to appeal over the amount of damages but refused permission on the question of liability, although Modi's lawyers are set to pursue that application with the Court of Appeal direct.

He also ordered Modi to pay £400,000 on account of costs to Cairns' solicitors within 28 days.

In his ruling, the judge said a claim by Modi's lawyers that the case was an example of libel tourism was misguided, as Cairns went to school in England, as did his children, and he played county cricket for seven seasons.

Also, Modi - who was not called to give evidence during the eight-day trial - had been resident in England since mid-2010.

He rejected a claim by Ronald Thwaites QC, for Modi, that Cairns had given "incredible evidence" on a number of points.

"Despite prolonged, searching and occasionally intrusive questioning about his sporting, financial and personal life, he emerged essentially unscathed."

He said evidence given by cricketers Gaurav Gupta, Rajesh Sharma and Tejinder Pal Singh was not to be believed and hearsay evidence from Amit Uniyal and Love Ablish was inconsistent and unreliable, while that of Karanveer Singh fell well short of sustaining Modi's case.

"Even if I were applying a simple balance of probabilities test, the plea of justification would fail in both respects."

The judge said Modi's lawyers had launched a "sustained and aggressive" attack on Cairns, which must be taken to have been made on his instructions.

In Mr Thwaites's closing speech to the court, the words "liar", "lie" and "lies" were used 24 times.

To reflect that, said the judge, he had increased the damages by about 20%, from a starting point of £75,000 to £90,000.

PA

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