Warren loses libel action over interview

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The Independent Online
FRANK WARREN, the boxing promoter, lost his libel action against Terry Marsh, the former world light welterweight boxing champion, because he consented to a defamatory television programme being broadcast, a High Court jury ruled yesterday.

After two and a half hours the jury agreed by a 10-1 majority that Mr Warren gave Thames Television permission to broadcast an interview which implied he allowed Mr Marsh to sign a contract for a fight knowing he was suffering from epilepsy.

However, although the jury decided the words were defamatory of Mr Warren, they could not agree whether they were true.

After the verdict Mr Warren, 40, of Tewin Wood, Hertfordshire, insisted that Mr Marsh did not tell him about his condition. Mr Warren, who now faces legal costs of pounds 100,000, has successfully sued two newspapers over similar allegations. He said he would consider appealing against the verdict. 'It is obvious the jury decided it was defamatory, but they could not decide who was telling the truth,' he said.

Mr Marsh, 34, who had denied libel, described the verdict as a 'complete vindication'. 'Having cleared my past I can now look forward to the future,' he said.

The libel action, described as a 'grudge match' by Mr Marsh's counsel, was their second courtroom encounter. In November 1990 Mr Marsh was cleared of attempting to murder his former mentor.

The prosecution at the Old Bailey alleged that the prospect of this week's libel case drove Mr Marsh to shoot Mr Warren twice in the chest outside the Broadway Theatre, Barking. He survived and the libel action continued.

Mr Warren sued Mr Marsh for damages over 'very grave and wounding' comments he made on Thames Television's Midweek Sports Special in January 1989. Mr Marsh insisted he had 'told everybody who needed to know' about his epilepsy.

Trevor East, executive producer of sport at Thames, told the court that Mr Warren had watched Mr Marsh being interviewed and immediately threatened to sue him. Mr East later rang Mr Warren to obtain his permission to broadcast the programme. He said Mr Warren told him: 'I don't care what you do with it. It is up to you. But I will sue Terry Marsh.'

Mr Warren told the court he issued the writ because he 'wanted to put the record straight'. He claimed he found out about Mr Marsh's condition when he read a story in the Sun newspaper in September 1987.

He initially thought it was 'nonsense' because the previous day Mr Marsh had signed a contract to fight Frankie Warren, an American boxer, for dollars 250,000 ( pounds 159,000) and had not given the 'slightest indication' that he would not be able to honour that commitment.

Mr Marsh, of Basildon, Essex, described Mr Warren as an 'absolute liar.' He claimed he was diagnosed as an epileptic in August 1987 and a week later he informed Mr Warren. 'There was a slight pause and then Frank said 'don't worry, we'll sort it out', and went on about what fights were lined up,' he said.

Two weeks later Mr Warren asked him to sign the contract. 'He did not listen to me, he had plans, he didn't listen about the epilepsy, we must have been speaking a different language,' Mr Marsh said in court.

Although Mr Marsh knew he could not fight, he signed the contract because he wanted to cause Mr Warren as much embarrassment as possible. 'I make no apology for that,' he said.

(Photograph omitted)

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