High-profile Liverpool solicitor Rex Makin has been cleared of accusations of professional negligence in the case of a couple whose son died at the Hillsborough disaster.
Judge Previte, sitting at Central London County Court, said Makin had been abusive to the couple, but found their claims “exaggerated”.
The case centred around David and Maureen Church, whose son Gary was the first of the Hillsborough victims to be buried. They approached Makin when a picture taken at their son's burial appeared in an advertisement promoting The Times newspaper.
The Churches said they were worried that people would think they had been paid for the advertisement. They wanted to pursue a libel action and accused Makin of professional negligence when, instead, he accepted costs of £1,000 from The Times.
Frank Panford, representing the Churches, of Seaforth in Liverpool, said: “Contrary to instruction [R Makin & Co] compromised the action. The Times paid their costs and as a result of this unauthorised compromise, they [the Churches] lost all prospects of bringing proceedings against The Times.”
David Church claimed Makin had used foul language when they met at Makin's office, a claim disputed by Makin.
Makin denied he was negligent and said he had been trying to “smoke something out” in negotiations with The Times' editor, but unfortunately had been unsuccessful. He told the court he had never believed they would succeed in a claim for defamation and that he thought they had been “motivated by revenge not compensation”.
Judge Previte said the case for libel would have been “doomed” as a “reasonable reader” would only infer from the picture that a photographer had “callously intruded against their wishes”.