I was at a friends wedding in Cyprus when I found out the news. It was Monday and I was about to drive back to the airport. It was going to be a long drive of around three hours.
At the conclusion of the libel trial the judge indicated that he would hand down the judgement within a few weeks. Six weeks had now passed.
After breakfast, just as I was about to check out of the hotel I received a text message from my lawyer saying "judgement has arrived". We agreed on those words, so not to give the game away. I would call him when I was ready to hear the news.... and he would reveal all.
It was July 25th 2016, and Mr de Freitas defamatory press campaign had taken place 17 months ago.
It had been a long 17 months and I was up to my eyeballs in debt with my own legal costs. The costs had spiralled out of control. We are talking hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Unlike me, Mr de Freitas had not spent a penny on lawyers. He was represented by "no win no fee" lawyers. The lawyers took his case on because if they won they could charge a 100% "uplift fee". Essentially they could double their fees if they won and I would have to foot the bill.
If they won I would have to write him a cheque for £1.2m as well as having paid all of my own legal costs. If he won I would be paying out over £2m.
I called my lawyer Colin to find out the news. I was standing outside. I was almost out of breath in anticipation. "Colin, tell me... tell me what the result is..."
He paused, and slowly said, "It's bad news, you have lost".
I almost fainted. I couldn't believe it. I was now £2m in debt. I was going lose everything I own. I was going bankrupt.
The drive back to the airport was horrible. I gave two people a lift and I just couldn't speak. I was lost in my own thoughts of the horror of having lost this case.
This wasn't supposed to happen. In two days time the press will be saying I lost. I should have been the other way around. I was devastated.
But how could I have lost?
I had looked at the judgement. It was over 100 pages long. We did in fact prove everything we needed to prove. The judge agreed that:
1. David de Freitas was responsible for making the statements.
2. His statements implied I was guilty of rape and they were seriously defamatory.
3. His statements caused serious harm to my reputation.
But the judge said that "David de Freitas free speech rights" was more important that repairing my reputation and that it was more important for Mr de Freitas to be able to talk about his dead daughter freely in the press, even if he was accused me of rape which wasn't true.
At no point did David de Freitas even attempt to show that what he was saying was true. The truth was not pleaded at trial. Instead he had won on a "public interest defence" which was based on a "reasonable belief" that what he was saying was in the public interest.
It was a crazy judgement. How can lying to the press be reasonable?
What was the point of having libel laws, if people can accused you of rape and get away with it, when they didn't even try to prove what they were saying was correct?
On the 27th July we all turned up at court and the judge handed down the judgement. It went public. Within a few hours the news that i had lost my libel case was all over the Internet. The next day it was in the front page of the Daily Telegraph.
Worse was to come though. The judge ordered me to pay David de Freitas legal costs and I had to pay an "interim payment" £400,000 within two months, otherwise I was going bankrupt...
|Newspapers on display at a petrol station the day after I lost the case.|