Eastbourne MP faces anxious New Year wait over libel case

EASTBOURNE MP, Stephen Lloyd faces an anxious wait over the New Year to learn whether he will have to pay damages for defamation over an election leaflet.

High Court judges yesterday reserved judgement until early in the New Year over the bitter row between the Liberal Democrat MP and former town MP, the Conservative Nigel Waterson.

This follows an election leaflet published by Mr Lloyd during the 2010 General Election which made comments about Mr Waterson’s expenses. Mr Waterson, who lost his seat to Mr Lloyd at the election after serving 18 years as Eastbourne’s MP, was later cleared of any wrongdoing over his expenses claims.

Exactly a year ago, Mr Lloyd lost a defamation case in the High Court, describing the ruling at the time as “highly technical”. He said then: “This is a highly technical ruling on the word ‘scandal’ and how people understand it.”

At the High Court in London yesterday, the current MP lodged an appeal against the decision when his lawyers told the court that the statements made in the pamphlets were fair comment and not defamatory. Now Mr Lloyd will have to wait until the New Year to discover whether the appeal has been successful.

At the time of the summary judgement a year ago, Mr Waterson said that Mr Lloyd should consider his position since “the relationship between and MP and his consitutents is one based on trust.”

Following yesterday’s hearing, Mr Waterson told the BBC: “This whole episode has been very stressful for my family and having it brought back to court was almost as stressful as having these accusations made at the time.

“We’ve had to come to court, there’s no sign of the other side apologising or withdrawing and now we await the judgement.”

At the time of the hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in December 2011, the judge, Mr Justice Tugendhat ordered Mr Lloyd to make an interim payment of £60,000 towards legal costs.

Should he lose the appeal in the New Year, the current Eastbourne MP could be faced with costs and damages running into tens of thousands of pounds.