Sir Benjamin Slade wins libel payout after council website posted letter falsely claiming he beat ex-girlfriend Kirsten Hughes
An aristocrat has won a libel pay out from his local council after it published a letter on its website carrying totally false serious allegations about him.
Baronet Sir Benjamin Slade submitted plans to Sedgemoor District Council to host an electronic music festival at his sprawling 13th century Maunsel House. But he was stunned when an objection from a neighbour was published online – falsely stating that Sir Benjamin had been violent to his former partner.
The claim related to Sir Benjamin’s former long-term partner, the actress Kirsten Hughes, who left the nobleman last year.
It was written by Sir Benjamin’s neighbour Sandy Evans, the High Sheriff of Somerset in 2004, as part of an objection to the planned Waveform Festival.
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The Somerset council published the letter in the Temporary Event Notices section of its website – without contacting Sir Benjamin or checking the allegation.
Sir Benjamin instructed London firm Carter Ruck to act against Mr Evans – who paid costs and admitted his claims were unfounded – and then the council.
He has just received a “very substantial” sum totalling “many, many thousands of pounds”.
Sir Benjamin, said he had been left “horrified” by the allegations, which had affected his business renting out his grounds for weddings.
He said: “The council are paying a very substantial sum, they are paying costs too and Carter Ruck do not come cheap.
“The allegations were totally untrue and the letter was nasty and vindictive about me. The council published it word for word online without checking a thing. You just don’t do that. I can’t believe anyone could be so stupid.”
A follow-up letter of apology written by Mr Evans was published on the website.
Sedgemoor District Council has apologised for Sir Benjamin for publishing it.
A spokesman confirmed the council will pay compensation and costs but said the exact total – which will be covered by insurers – had not been finalised. Mr Evans declined to comment.