McKenna wins libel action as Eady J slams ‘armchair machismo’

Media boutique Swan Turton has achieved victory in hypnotist Paul McKenna’s libel claim against the Daily Mirror.

Partner Jonathan Coad instructed 5 Raymond Buildings’ Desmond Browne QC for McKenna as he fought claims by Mirror journalist Victor Lewis-Smith that he had fraudulently obtained a doctorate from a US university.

This morning (24 July) Mr Justice Eady handed down judgment in favour of McKenna. He found that McKenna was not dishonest and had not sought to deceive anyone by obtaining the degree from the institution, which went out of business in 2001.

Eady J said: “This is a curious case in some respects. Much energy has been expended to very little purpose. […] The parties seem to have been determined to fight themselves to a standstill.”

McKenna will be awarded damages, but the exact amount is yet to be determined. Eady J noted that the case has involved “a great deal of armchair machismo” and that both sides’ determination to fight it will raise costs substantially.

Eady J said that McKenna took the claims against him very seriously, and cited a letter sent to McKenna by the Mirror’s then-editor Piers Morgan in October 2003.

Morgan wrote: “Paul, you know what Victor is like. He’s leaving us in a couple of weeks and if you want my honest advice I wouldn’t worry too much – nobody takes what he says too seriously. But if you want to pursue it legally I fully understand”.

The judgment also reveals that McKenna’s expert witness in the case, a Dr Ruden, was interviewed on the telephone by the Mirror’s solicitors Davenport Lyons without his knowledge.

Davenport Lyons instructed Cloth Fair Chambers’ John Kelsey-Fry QC.