Labour councillor drops eight-year libel

A LABOUR councillor who issued over 20 libel writs with Derbyshire County Council has finally dropped an eight-year libel action against a Conservative MP.

Prolific litigator David Bookbinder has dropped an appeal against a High Court judgment that he had not been libelled by Amber Valley Conservative MP Philip Oppenheim during the 1987 general election campaign.

Oppenheim and others criticised Bookbinder for sanitising the libraries in the local authority with politically correct children's books. The episode was part of a dirty election campaign in which both men were standing for the Amber Valley seat in Derbyshire.

Others accused of libel by Bookbinder and the council include the Government, The Sunday Times, Norman Tebbitt and The Derby Trader.

Brendan Murphy, partner at Edward Lewis who acted for Oppenheim, said: “I have never known a politician to issue so many libel writs. In my opinion it doesn't seem to run easily with the democratic process of the freedom to criticise local authorities and governments.

“This case should be a lesson to politicians not to try and persuade people through writs. It is a waste of resources.”

On hearing the news that Bookbinder had decided to drop the appeal, Oppenheim said: “I am pleased that this long series of legal actions against me by councillor Bookbinder has been dropped without my paying a single penny to him.

“I have incurred legal costs myself, but have always taken the view that it is extremely important to stand up against threats of legal action which try to silence political debate, and from the point of view of Derbyshire politics it was a price well worth paying.”

Bookbinder still has two libel writs outstanding against the former editor of The Derby Trader, Tony Mather, and Tory councillor Walter Marshall, who are both represented by Edward Lewis.