Oxford Brookes wins libel appeal

December 8, 1995

A law lecturer who won Pounds 60,000 in libel damages after claiming he was the victim of a "dirty tricks campaign" by Oxford Brookes University managers has been ordered by the High Court to pay back more than Pounds 40,000 .

Andrew Halpin, a former Oxford Brookes lecturer, was defeated last week in an appeal launched by the university against the damages. Master of the Rolls, Neill Hirst, called for a retrial.

He decided that the judge had failed properly to direct the jury in its consideration of evidence given by Trevor Watkins, South Bank University deputy vice chancellor and former head of Oxford Brookes business school, and Philip Perlin, Oxford Brookes personnel manager.

Dr Halpin, who defended himself against the appeal, said he now faced paying back Pounds 20,000 damages and Pounds 20,000 costs, plus interest. The university had earlier won a stay of execution on the remaining Pounds 40,000 pending the outcome of the appeal.

He had claimed he was libelled in three memoranda accusing him of neglecting his professional duties and of unacceptable behaviour during a dispute over new staff contracts.

"It is all very unsatisfactory. I am facing crippling costs and have been taken back to square one, with all the conscientious deliberations of the jury set at nought over a technical detail," he said. "There was nothing in the Court of Appeal that went against the basic findings of the jury. It all turned on technicalities over the judge's directions on the question of malice," he said.

Dr Halpin is now considering appealling to the House of Lords. But he will first have to win leave for the case to be heard, and then find Pounds ,000 to cover costs.

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