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Joshua Rozenberg
Thursday 23rd July 2009
Desmond nil, Bower won

Tom Bower is a friend of mine but that is no reason for not congratulating him on his success in defeating a libel claim against him by the newspaper proprietor, Richard Desmond.

Bower's publishers HarperCollins -- and their insurers -- stood by him, despite the huge financial risks of losing a defended libel action. The author's counsel, Ronald Thwaites QC, took the high-risk decision not to expose Bower to cross-examination by putting him in the witness box.

Instead, Thwaites was able to demonstrate the essential truth of Bower's allegations about Desmond, despite a few minor factual errors that Desmond had pinned his case on.

What the jury were not told was that Bower's legal team went to the Court of Appeal on two occasions to challenge decisions of Mr Justice Eady.

The trial judge had decided that the jury should not hear a recording of a "sinister" telephone conversation with Jafar Omid, an investment manager from whom Desmond was trying to recover money invested by his son. The manager was told by Desmond that he would be the "worst fucking enemy" Omid would ever have.

Desmond denied having a grudge against Omid and said he had nothing to do with a libellous article about Omid's company that appeared three days later in the Sunday Express.

The tape was played to the jury only after the Court of Appeal had decided Mr Justice Eady's earlier decision that it was inadmissible would risk a miscarriage of justice.

The next book Bower intends to publish is an unauthorised biography of Desmond.


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About Joshua Rozenberg

Joshua Rozenberg is an independent legal commentator who presents Law in Action on BBC Radio 4.

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