Peter Carter-Ruck and Partners, a firm best known for suing newspapers, has won an intriguing case for a former town mayor who was libelled by a millionaire who attached banners to his private jet saying she was a thief.
Jennifer Howlett, a former mayor and town councillor of Castle Point, Essex, won £65,000 in damages from local millionaire scrap metal dealer Terry Holding after he spent several years trailing banners from his private jet claiming she was a thief and unfit to serve in public office.
Howlett’s QC, Victoria Sharpe of One Brick Court, said that Holding’s motivation for calling Howlett a thief was based on claims that she was questioned by police when she took six items from Tesco without paying three years earlier.
Howlett claimed the incident, which saw Holding unveil banners such as ‘Thief: watch next election’, was linked to her opposition to his plan to build a 35-acre site for his business on Canvey Island.
Unsurprisingly, this case is believed to be the first libel trial in the High Court involving an aeroplane as a means of communicating defamatory statements.
“As far as I’m aware, this is a first. There was a similar incident in the 1980s where somebody flew an aeroplane trailing defamatory banners over a racecourse, but that didn’t turn into a libel trial,” explained Carter-Ruck partner Adam Tudor.
Carter-Ruck acted for Howlett using a conditional fee arrangement (CFA). Holding was represented by Jennings Son & Ash and Ronald Thwaites QC of Ely Place Chambers.