pounds 150,000 limit set in Hamilton case

AN AWARD of more than pounds 150,000 damages would be excessive should Neil Hamilton win his cash-for-questions libel action against Mohamed Al Fayed, a High Court jury was told today.

Starting his summing up, Mr Justice Morland said that the jury should remember that any award must be proportionate to the injury done.

Media reports of pounds 1m plus awards for personal injury were misleading, he added, in that 90 per cent or more of such sums were to pay for a lifetime's worth of nursing or lost earnings. The element of compensation for physical injuries was often only 10 per cent of such an award.

Mr Hamilton, his wife Christine and Mr Fayed listened as the judge said that even the most grievously injured person - who was blind, deaf, paralysed, brain damaged and unable to communicate - was most unlikely to be awarded as much as pounds 150,000 for pain, suffering, disability and loss of enjoyment of life.

The judge said that Mr Fayed did not have to establish that every detail of his charge of corruption was true, but that it was true in substance and in fact. The jury had to decide whether it was more likely than not that the allegation was true. "Because of the seriousness of the charge, the law requires proof on the allegation to be clear and highly convincing.

"Keep that principle in mind at all times when considering the question of whether Mr Fayed has established that Mr Hamilton is guilty of corruption in his capacity as an MP."

Mr Hamilton is suing Mr Fayed over allegations on a January 1997 Channel 4 Dispatches programme that he had corruptly demanded rewards in return for asking parliamentary questions on behalf of the Harrods boss.