Claims of slander are rarely pursued nowadays, but one High Court case must stand as a lesson to all that it is wise to be careful what you say in public. An elderly woman who falsely accused a businessman of threatening to slit her throat in front of a church congregation was ordered to pay him £35,000 in damages.
The woman’s married son had had an on-off relationship with the businessman’s daughter. The latter’s family deeply disapproved of their liaison, which they viewed as adulterous, and complained to the church of which the woman was a member. The complaint was being investigated when the woman uttered the slanderous words in front of about 90 fellow churchgoers.
In upholding the businessman’s claim and making the award, the Court came to the firm conclusion that he had never made the alleged threat and that the woman, aged in her 70s, had lied. He had been wrongly accused of a criminal offence and had suffered serious harm to his reputation.