Former Jackson bodyguard drops UK libel action

Mon Jun 21, 2010 11:15am EDT
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LONDON (Reuters) - A former bodyguard to Michael Jackson has dropped his libel action against Britain's Channel 4 television over claims he "betrayed" the singer's family, the program said on Monday.

Matt Fiddes had sued the channel over a 2008 broadcast called "The Jacksons Are Coming" which followed Michael's brother Tito and his family as he searched for a home to buy in Devon, southwest England.

According to Channel 4, the program showed the breakdown of the relationship between the Jacksons and Fiddes, who "betrayed their trust by leaking information to the press against their wishes."

Tito, his mother Katherine and other members of the Jackson family had given statements in support of the documentary and had been due to give evidence during the trial at London's High Court, which was to have begun on Monday.

"Channel 4 is delighted that this unmeritorious claim has been discontinued," said its head Julian Bellamy, in a statement.

"This case illustrates the chilling effect that exorbitant legal costs in CFA ("no win, no fee") funded libel claims can have on broadcasters' freedom of expression.

"The claim was flawed from the outset and it is a damning indictment of the current libel system in the UK that the claimant has been allowed to tie up the court's valuable time and the defendants' resources for so long."

Outside court, Bellamy told reporters that the company would not be paying Fiddes any damages nor his legal costs, estimated at 1.3 million pounds.

Channel 4 was also not pursuing Fiddes for its own costs of 1.7 million pounds, he added, according to the Press Association.   Continued...