Question for libel lawyers

What’s the definition of “substantial” in “substantial undisclosed donation to charity” in settlement of a libel claim?

Is it one of those things like “he remained unmarried” which means “gay as a nine bob note” or does it have a more variable meaning?

23 thoughts on “Question for libel lawyers”

  1. The Meissen Bison

    No idea but I doubt that I’m alone in thinking that it means “quite a lot”.

    gay as a nine bob note
    That’s an interesting simile. In the days of the ten bob note you might have been a gay dog and parties might have been gay.

    You would have been as bent as a nine bob note and as queer as a coot – depending on your proclivities, obviously, or orientation as we now have learned to say.

  2. Substantial, adj. Embarrassingly small, but I don’t want to admit as much, so I’m using an adjective which is near meaningless, but gives the impression of “largeness” rather than “embarrassingly small”.

  3. Land Registry data for the purchase of the Ely property is now in.

    Shows a purchase price of 330K (no data on the Downham Market yet). Interestingly the title deeds show the owner as Ritchie alone, no lender. Title deeds for the Downham Market property showed Mr and Mrs Ritchie as owners (again, no lender). Mrs Ritchie’s address at Companies House is shown as Ely so don’t jump to conclusions!

  4. I think it simply means not trivial. I remember a case twenty years ago where a judge agreed that an amount of money was substantial because it was more than a judge was paid every year.

  5. RM: It could be a weasel word like that, but my first thought would be something that causes the payer some measure of pain – >10% of capital assets, perhaps even including PV of future income stream?

  6. Noel

    That is interesting and in fact suggest there might have been a split? The end terrace in Ely doesn’t look like it could physically accommodate a wife, two boys, various spaniels, Murphy, his massive ego and the model train set all together does it?

  7. Dear Mr Worstall

    ‘Substantial’ ought to be relative to the payer’s means. Thus for your average multi-billionaire, anything less than £100 million is increasingly fiddly small change.

    It also depends on whose money it is – paying the donation with taxpayers’ funds means the sky’s the limit.

    In my case ‘substantial’ starts around a hundred quid or so…

    Know anyone who needs libelling?


  8. It’s a long time since I’ve had to look at this sort of thing, but I shouldn’t think Ashcroft would have got all of his costs. Don’t the courts cap them at what they consider a reasonable level? Ashcroft was probably far better lawyered up than that.

    But from memory if you try to fight the case and then cave in once it gets to court, I think you get hit with more of the costs because they say you should have conceded beforehand and saved the cost of a day in court.

  9. @ TMB
    I remember “bent as a five-penny piece” – notes got folded so “bent as (any) note” didn’t signify. we had 1d, 2d, 3d, 6d and – for Maundy money – 4d coins so 5d was the odd one out.

  10. In my limited experience, the legal fees dwarf the settlements. Which is why Dick conducted his own defence. Letting it go to court was the gamble of a desperate or stupid man; so no indication in this case of which it was.

  11. I’d say it would be an amount that has a noticable effect on your finances that forces you to make provision for it.

  12. Bloke in Costa Rica

    I like Jonah Goldberg’s phrase “as gay as a taffeta chandelier”. Also: “as camp as a Boy Scout jamboree”.

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