Just in time for whatever new stories come from the Sunday papers, I can catch up with a couple of loose ends from Friday.
(Sunday Morning Edit – on the basis that the Sunday papers appear to have nothing else in them other than Rangers, I will follow the new developments up later – but I have typed this stuff, so it’s going in!)
Mr Whyte and the BBC
First of all, I noted a tweet from Chris McLaughlin of the BBC which quoted Craig Whyte. Could Mr Whyte have been speaking to the BBC?
If so, and if he regains control of Rangers from the administrators, then he will have to fire himself, as per his pledge in October to the BBC!
And talking of the BBC, it has now been confirmed that a writ has been served on it at the instance of Mr Whyte. It seems that the court action is against both the BBC and Robert Burns, Head of Investigations at the Insolvency Service.
I confidently predicted that this court action would never see the light of day. As is often the case, I was wrong!
Formal confirmation as to whether the action has been raised in England or Scotland is awaited. As I have said many times, any action should be raised in England as the financial pressures on the defender to settle are so much higher, and the “no win, no fee” provisions so much more favourable for claimants.
Now that an action has been raised, all I can say is that I am even more astonished.
There are two essential elements in a damages claim, whether for injury to person, reputation or business. There must be a legal wrong committed against the claimant and there must be injury.
In a defamation or libel case, the injury relates to damage to reputation. Has the repute of the person been lowered amongst right thinking people?
When Lord Archer, for example, was at the height of his fame and political prominence, the media was afraid to write about him in a less than positive fashion. He was known to be litigious, and had won a huge award from the Daily Star for libel in 1987. Lord Archer was a prominent and powerful man whose reputation, despite being chipped away at round the edges by Michael Crick and by Private Eye, was still very high.
However, once he was convicted in 2003 of perjury and perverting the course of justice, and gaoled for four years, things changed. The media could effectively write anything it wanted about Lord Archer because his reputation could hardly be lower. If he sued and won in a libel case, the defence would ask the jury to consider how much the reputation of a convicted perjurer was worth. It remains possible for a jury in such a case to find that a person has been libelled, and to award one penny by way of damages.
In October 2011, when the BBC programme was published, Mr Whyte’s reputation was still high. His team had won the league, and despite a looming tax decision, which was nothing to do with him (as far as causing it was concerned) and a couple of trivial disputes with lawyers and ex-employees, he would have been seen as a fine and upstanding member of Scottish society.
We move forward a mere four months and matters are so different.
Mr Whyte has been condemned by a Sheriff for giving evidence described as “wholly unreliable”. His company has been forced into administration. It appears that, since taking over less than one year ago, a further £15 million in outstanding tax liabilities has been accrued. He has been seen either to have been incorrect in statements he has made, or else has said things which turn out to be the opposite of the truth. He has been revealed as being listed under different names in the Companies House Register, and with differing dates of birth.
It is not easy to think of someone whose reputation in Scotland is now so poor.
Ands yet it is at this time that he raises court proceedings?
One wonders if, like the late Robert Maxwell, Mr Whyte viewed the court action as a way of gagging the media. If he did, he has found out that he required a much bigger gag, and many more of them!
Will this claim ever get to court for a full hearing? I don’t think so. He must be funding it privately (there is no way he can go with a no win, no fee deal here) and these cases are very expensive.
It would not surprise me if, in a few months, there is quiet word that the action has been dropped.
As I have said before, I did not see Mr Whyte winning. Now even if he wins, he will lose! Continue reading