News: Daily Mail agrees to pay £125,000 libel damages to Sally Morgan

21 06 2013

sally morganThe publishers of the Daily Mail have agreed to pay damages of £125,000 to the “psychic to the stars”, Sally Morgan, in respect of an article which alleged that she had cheated an audience in Dublin by using an earpiece.  The trial of the action had been due to commence on 10 June 2013 but a settlement was announced in a Statement in Open Court [pdf] read to Mr Justice Tugendhat on 20 June 2013.

Mrs Morgan’s solicitor, Graham Atkins, told the judge that she was a psychic who had become well-known in the past five years or so through appearances on television and in the theatre.

“She has performed in over 600 shows in more than 100 different theatres or venues to audiences stretching into the hundreds of thousands. It was following a theatre performance in September 2011 in Dublin that an article appeared in the Daily Mail which, in the context of a general attack on psychics as being charlatans, accused Mrs Morgan specifically of having used a hidden earpiece during her performance in order to receive instructions from her team which she then repeated on stage as if she had received them from the spirit world.”

The article thereby suggested that Mrs Morgan had deliberately and dishonestly perpetrated a scam on her audience in Dublin.  The allegation had arisen during a phone-in on Irish radio.  Two women at the performance mentioned on air that they had been sitting at the back of the auditorium and thought they heard two crew members “saying something which Mrs Morgan had then repeated on stage“.

Mr Atkins said that

“Following this, Mrs Morgan publicly stated that the suggestion she had cheated by using an earpiece was nonsense, as did the theatre itself which put out a very clear press statement denying any scam.  The crew members who were said to be part of the scam were sub-contracted by the theatre and were not members of Mrs Morgan’s team.  Despite these denials, the suggestion was repeated by the Daily Mail in an article by the magician Paul Zenon, which was published in both the online and hard copy issues of the newspaper on 22 September 2011. The allegation contained in the article that Mrs Morgan cheated the audience in Dublin is completely false and defamatory of her. It has also caused enormous distress to Mrs Morgan, who decided, given the newspaper’s initial defence of the article, that she had no choice but to commence legal proceedings against the publisher of the Daily Mail“.

The Daily Mail accepted that the allegation is untrue.  It had apologised and agreed to pay Mrs Morgan substantial damages plus her legal costs.

Brid Jordan, for Associated Newspapers, told the judge:

“The Daily Mail withdraws the suggestion that Mrs Morgan used a secret earpiece at her Dublin show in September 2011 to receive messages from off-stage, thereby cheating her audience, which it accepts is untrue . It apologises unreservedly to Mrs Morgan for publishing the allegation. It has agreed to pay her substantial damages, together with her legal costs, and it has also agreed not to repeat the allegation.

In a statement published on her website Mrs Morgan said

“Almost two years ago an accusation was made against me that questioned my professional integrity and suggested that I had cheated my fans, who I hold very dear. That accusation was totally unfounded and the subsequent fall out has affected me, my family, my career, my health and the good reputation I have built up over many years. It was an unjustified and unfair attack and it has been a very difficult, costly and painful process to get where I am today and to rectify that wrong.   bought this libel action against The Daily Mail not to be a spokesperson for mediums and mediumship, nor for financial gain, but for the simple reason of principle. I have done nothing wrong and deserve to have that acknowledged. I have never cheated“.

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3 responses

21 06 2013
Owen O'R

May I ask what the pleaded meaning was? Various versions are being reported in the media, via statements from the parties: “that Mrs. Morgan had deliberately and dishonestly perpetrated a scam on her audience in Dublin”; that she was a “charlatan”; and a more specific point, “that she had cheated the audience in Dublin by receiving instructions via an earpiece”.

Obviously, in the context of the services offered by Ms Morgan, it is highly relevant to understanding the settlement to know what the Defendant was having to justify. Presumably an element on which the claim hinged was the good faith of the Claimant (i.e. the “deliberate & dishonest” aspect, that it could not be shown that Ms Morgan did not believe she was providing a valid and bona fide service); and another was the technical facet, the means by which the “scam” was alleged – namely a requirement on the Defendant to evidence its specific claims about the earpiece and the “accomplices” in order to justify the sting of the piece.

Clearly the latter is a far more straightforward evidential question. Given that historically the publisher is known to be relatively bullish when it comes to defending its articles, it would have been interesting to see this case fought on the question of the good faith of psychics alone.

22 06 2013
INFORRM

We have not seen the Particulars of Claim but from the Statement in Open Court it appears that it was that she had “deliberately and dishonestly perpetrated a scam on her audience in Dublin”

24 06 2013
Owen O'R

Many thanks

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