'Oliver' actor wins libel damages

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Cheltenham former child actor Mark Lester - famous for his title role in the 1968 film Oliver - has accepted substantial libel damages over allegations that he assaulted his ex-wife and allowed his three-year-old son to sleep in the same bedroom as Michael Jackson.

His solicitor-advocate David Price told Mr Justice Eady at the High Court in London that the claim arose from an article about the break-up of Mr Lester's marriage which was published in the Daily Mail in March.

Mr Price said: "This article suggested that the claimant had violently assaulted his ex-wife several times during their relationship and allowed his three-year-old son to sleep in the same bedroom as Michael Jackson.

"These allegations are untrue. The claimant has never assaulted his ex-wife.

"The claimant is a friend of Michael Jackson but at no time has his son or any of his children slept in the same bedroom as the star."

The lawyer said Mr Lester, an osteopath who runs his own clinic based in Cheltenham, was "deeply hurt and upset by the article which was extremely damaging to his reputation both personally and professionally and which also caused immense distress to his children".

Mr Price added: "He was not prepared to allow it to remain unchallenged and therefore brought this claim for libel."

He told the judge that the defendant, Associated Newspapers Ltd, publisher of the Daily Mail, "has agreed to pay the claimant a substantial sum in damages together with his legal costs".

Mr Lester "now accepts that he has achieved all that he can by bringing these proceedings and feels suitably vindicated".

Lindsay Hodgkinson, for the defendant, told the court: "I agree with everything that Mr Price has said and offer the defendant's apologies to the claimant."