Baby P father's libel award over rape claim error is cut to £50,000

 

The natural father of Baby P who was falsely accused of having been convicted of raping a 14-year-old girl has had a libel award of £75,000 cut to £50,000.

Lawyers for the father, who can only be referred to as “KC”, told High Court judge Mr Justice Bean in March that MGN Ltd, publisher of The People, was guilty of “one of the gravest libels imaginable”.

Today, three judges in the Court of Appeal, headed by the Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge, said it was hard to exaggerate the seriousness of the publication of a false assertion that a man of good character had been convicted of the rape of a child.

But, for as long as the libel remained uncorrected, KC remained anonymous, as he still is, and the falsity of the allegation was recognised and publicly corrected at a very early stage.

Given the limited number of those who might have read or heard of the false allegation, and appreciate that it referred to KC, the starting point of £150,000 taken by the judge - before a 50% discount to reflect mitigating factors - was excessive.

“We propose to reduce it to a level which, consistently with the limited publication and early apology, would nevertheless adequately reflect the abhorrent nature of the crime falsely alleged against KC and the damage done to and its impact on him. A proportionate figure for this purpose is £100,000.”

The discount applied by the judge was appropriate, bringing the award down to £50,000.

The completely untrue allegation, made as a result of a “blunder”, was in a September 2010 crime supplement featuring Baby P's mother, Tracey Connelly, who had separated from KC.

Baby P, later named as Peter Connelly, was 17 months old when he was found with more than 50 injuries in his cot at her home in Tottenham, north London, in August 2007.

Tracey Connelly was jailed in 2009 after admitting causing or allowing his death, while her boyfriend, Steven Barker, and their lodger, Jason Owens, Barker's brother, were found guilty at the Old Bailey of the same charge.

PA

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