Ex-Lincolnshire council boss gets libel payout

The former chief of a Lincolnshire council has accepted "very substantial" libel damages over false newspaper allegations about him.

Bernard Theobald, the former leader of West Lindsey District Council, brought proceedings over a series of articles in the Lincolnshire Echo.

The paper wrongly claimed there were grounds to suspect he had committed fraud to advance a planning proposal.

It apologised "fully and unreservedly" for the publications.

'Serious embarrassment'

Mr Theobald, who was singer Barbara Dickson's manager before entering politics, brought proceedings in the High Court, in London.

The former planning committee chairman, was caused serious distress and embarrassment by the stories, said his counsel, Ronald Thwaites QC.

The first article appeared in December 2009 and alleged there were good and solid reasonable grounds to suspect Mr Theobald had committed fraud in relation to the application, which he had made the previous June.

Three days later, the allegation was repeated and it was also claimed that Mr Theobald had lied in denying the newspaper's claim that his planning application had resulted in a council officer's suspension and investigation by the Audit Commission.

A third article appeared in January 2010.

Mr Thwaites said: "There was nothing to justify the allegations as published. The allegations made against Mr Theobald were completely false and should never have been published."

The publisher's QC, Manuel Barca, said it apologised "fully and unreservedly" for the publication of the false allegations.

It has agreed to pay Mr Theobald a very substantial undisclosed sum in compensation and his legal costs.

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