Jim DevineIn the case of Kinley v Devine ([2014] CSOH 67) disgraced former MP Jim Devine was ordered to pay his one-time officer manager £18,000 in libel damages including interest over a series of statements in which he accused her of dishonesty and theft and claimed she was a gambling addict.

Mr Devine, who was jailed for 16 months in 2001 after being convicted of convicted of two offences of false accounting involving expenses claims for £8,365, knew when he made the statements that they were false, Lord Bannatyne said in a decision handed down on 9 April 2014 in the Court of Session.

Marion Kinley, who was Devine’s office manager, sued her former boss over a series of statement he made to Parliamentary researcher Eilidh McDonald, to Linda Chatwin, who worked in the office, and to politicians and councillors, while she was off work because of sickness between June and October 2008.

Mr Devine’s claims included that Ms Kinley was being investigated by the Special Branch over her handling of office accounts, or for fraud, that she was dishonest, and that she was a gambling addict.

The former MP denied making the statements, but also pleaded that even if he had made them they were substantially true.

Ms Kinley subsequently resigned as Mr Devine’s office manager, and later won an Employment Tribunal claim against him, being awarded £35,000 in compensation for constructive dismissal. House of Commons authorities paid half that sum, but Mr Devine paid nothing.

Lord Bannatyne rejected Mr Devine’s defence, saying the evidence supported Ms Kinley’s position that the former MP had formed and put into effect a campaign against her to “hide what was eventually proved to to be his criminal conduct and to deflect iniquries away from himself.”

He went on:

“I found the defender [Mr Devine] to be a wholly unsatisfactory witness and in relation to any matter which was in dispute I was not prepared to accept his evidence [56]

Generally looking at his evidence, it made no sense; it was implausible; it did not fit with documentation which was produced; it was not consistent; and when subjected to cross-examination the defender was on a number of occasions shown not to have been accurate when earlier giving evidence.” [57]

In contrast, both Ms Kinley and Ms McDonald were credible and reliable witnesses.

Lord Bannatyne added:

“It appears to me that these allegations are of a serious nature in that they allege criminal misconduct and impugned the pursuer’s honesty. I am satisfied that the pursuer has suffered significant distress as a result of these allegations.” [84]

Mr Devine, he said, had continued to insist on the veracity of the allegations right to the end, adding:

“As I have earlier set out I am satisfied that when he made these statements he knew them not to be true and that they were made maliciously“. [85]

“I do not believe that in assessing damages there were any particular mitigating factors to which I could have regard.” [86]

He awarded Ms Kinley £15,000 damages, which, with interest from June 2008, made a total of £17,816, adding that interest on this figure would be charged at 8% from the date of the decision until payment.

This article originally appeared on the online subscription service Media Lawyer and is reproduced with permission and thanks.