Judge attacks Fayed for ranting in court rantings 'misuse' of court

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The Independent Online

A High Court judge launched an outspoken attack on Mohamed Al Fayed yesterday accusing the Harrods boss of "discreditable" conduct in his libel battle with the former Conservative minister and ex-Tatton MP, Neil Hamilton.

Mr Justice Morland said Mr Al Fayed had "misused" the court by going into the witness box "to make speeches and utterly scandalous allegations".

He also criticised Mr Al Fayed for obtaining stolen documents from Mr Hamilton's dustbins. This, said the judge, was one of the reasons he had refused Mr Al Fayed's application to make Mr Hamilton's financial backers in the case pay his £1.3m legal bill incurred during his libel victory over the former MP nearly two years ago.

The judge, who presided over the now famous trial dubbed "Liar v Liar", said yesterday that it would not be just or reasonable for Mr Al Fayed to recover his legal costs from eight of the former MP's financial backers.

Now the Fulham Football Club chairman will have to pay an additional £100,000 to the eight backers who supported Mr Hamilton and who include the Duke of Devonshire, Lord Hanson, the Earl of Portsmouth and Taki Theodoracopulos.

At the close of the hearing last month, the judge said: "Having considered carefully the arguments on both sides and reflected on them, I have come to the conclusion that it would be unjust and unreasonable to make any orders for costs in favour of Mr Al Fayed against any of the respondents."

Yesterday, he said that he had used his discretion to dismiss the application because he considered none of the backers to be "professional funders".

He said their donations were not made to Mr Hamilton as the result of any obligation owed to him but as an act of charity through sympathy with his predicament and in some instances affinity to the Conservative Party.

They had no control over how their donation was spent and had no part in the management of the litigation up to and including the trial. If Mr Hamilton was successful, their only expectation was a return of their contributions.

"It would be rare," said the judge, "that it would be just and reasonable to make a costs order against a pure funder. But a blanket immunity for charitable donors acting out of sympathy for the impecunious litigant and a sense of fair play would be contrary to the public interest and the overall interests of justice."

A spokesman for Mr Al Fayed said he would be considering an appeal.