Blackpool Football Club’s chairman Mr Karl Oyston has won £30,000 in libel damages from a fan, Mr Stephen Reed who claimed Mr Oyston threatened him with a shotgun.
Mr Oyston sued Mr Reed over material posted on a fans’ forum website, ‘Back Henry Street’, in June 2015. Mr Reed’s website posts alleged that Mr Oyston entered into a foul-mouthed rant at him in public and held a gun in such a way, as to make Mr Reed believe he was about to be shot at, and had put him in fear for his life.
Mr Justice Langstaff in the High Court ruled Mr Oyston was blameless and Mr Reed’s allegation was untrue. Mr Reed accepted that Mr Oyston had not done what was alleged and unreservedly apologised for an unpleasant email which was sent to Mr Oyston’s wife, but that acceptance did not come until the day of the hearing and it was clear that the email had been intended for Mr Oyston’s wife to receive and read; those factors were taken into account in aggravation of the damages.
In ruling, the judge stated that further libel had not been discouraged by an award in an earlier action brought by Mr Oyston against another supporter, David Ragozzino.
The judge said the effect appeared to have been to stir up, and maintain, resentment of and hostility towards Mr Oyston and his family.
The judge ordered Mr Reed to pay Mr Oyston £30,000 plus his legal costs for posting false allegations on the fans’ forum website. It also made an order, providing that Mr Reed might be committed to prison if in future he repeated the same or similar libels towards Mr Oyston or his family.
Mr Reed was among a number of Blackpool supporters unhappy about the way the Oyston family have managed the football club. Fans have held regular protests and boycotted games over the past two seasons and this verdict came the day after Blackpool FC was relegated to League Two.
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