Jan 31 2013
Supermodel Naomi Campbell has accepted "substantial" libel damages at the High Court over a false story that she was planning to organise an elephant polo match in India for her partner's birthday.
Her lawyer, Gideon Benaim, told a judge in London that the article in the Daily Telegraph last November reported "detailed criticisms made of these plans by the animal rights group Peta, who were said to have launched a personal attack on Ms Campbell for promoting animal cruelty".
Mr Benaim told Mr Justice Eady that the story was "simply false and the criticisms unfounded" - there were never any plans for an elephant polo tournament at the 50th birthday celebrations in Jodhpur.
Ms Campbell, 42, was not present in court, but said in a statement: "There were never plans to hold an elephant polo tournament, so the allegations should not have been published. However, I am glad that the matter has been resolved and I accept the newspaper's apology."
Mr Benaim said readers of the newspaper were told that elephant polo was cruel and depended upon "violent abuse" of the animals by the trainers, and that they were "constantly kept in chains" and "driven insane" by their treatment. Ms Campbell had "neither organised nor requested the organisation of any such tournament".
Her action was brought against Telegraph Media Group, publisher of the Daily Telegraph. Mr Benaim told the judge: "Regrettably, the defendant's journalists made no effort to contact Ms Campbell in advance of publishing this story: had they done so they would have been told that the story was untrue.
"The claimant's lawyers contacted the defendant on the morning of November 3, 2012 to request that the story be taken down from its website and that an apology and correction be published. However, the defendant failed to take the article down for a day and a half, and the story was republished widely in the Indian press and elsewhere, including over the internet, attracting a storm of adverse publicity against Ms Campbell."
He said that "any suggestion that the claimant was promoting animal cruelty or was knowingly or recklessly indifferent to the violent abuse or other physical or mental suffering caused to elephants as a result of their training or transportation for elephant polo is wholly unfounded".
"The defendant is here today by its solicitor to withdraw such imputations unreservedly and to apologise publicly to Ms Campbell for the damage and distress caused by its article, for its failure to put the story to her in advance and for its failure to offer a prompt apology and correction subsequently. It has agreed to pay Ms Campbell a substantial sum in damages as well as her legal costs."
Julia Varley, for the publisher, told Mr Justice Eady: "I wish to associate myself on behalf of the defendant with everything that has been said by Gideon Benaim for the claimant and to repeat the defendant's regrets."