Low award in line with long tradition: Juries have shown a tendency in the past to give compensation considered to be derisory. Marianne Macdonald reports

THE SUM of pounds 69 awarded to David Wraith is in the tradition of derisory damages that juries with a sense of proportion and humour have awarded in famous cases.

In May 1990, Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of France's right-wing National Front, was ordered to pay just one franc (10p) for having described the Nazi gas chambers as a 'detail' of history in a 1987 radio interview. He was sued by groups representing concentration camp victims and their families, who had hoped for damages of 900,000 francs.

Another case which did not shower glory on its protagonists ended in January 1990 when Andrew Neil, editor of the Sunday Times, was awarded pounds 1,000 damages against the rival Sunday Telegraph and its former editor, Peregrine Worsthorne, in the Pamela Bordes libel case. Times Newspapers was awarded just 60p. Mr Neil and Times Newspapers had claimed that two articles and a cartoon in the Sunday Telegraph in March 1989 implied he was unfit to edit a quality newspaper, and that he had known Miss Bordes was a prostitute when he had four- month affair with her.

Damages of one franc were also awarded in 1989 to the artist Ian Hamilton Finlay. He had sued two magazines and a radio station, in addition to the Canadian sculptor Jonathan Hirschfeld, for defamation following a smear campaign by some of the Paris arts intelligentsia suggesting he was anti-Semite with Nazi sympathies. Finlay did better than the artist James Whistler, who was awarded one farthing (one- quarter of one old penny) when he sued the art critic, John Ruskin, for describing his Grosvenor Gallery exhibits of 1877 as 'flinging a pot of paint in the public's face'.

Last year, Sir Rupert Mackeson, a Swindon bookseller and Old Harrovian, took a firm of solicitors to court for casting aspersions on his good name; he was awarded one penny.