Woman gets libel case thrown out

A woman who was sued for libel after she "spoke her mind" about damage allegedly caused to her neighbourhood has won her High Court battle to get the case thrown out.

Diane Charlton, a part-time cook in a care home, conducted her own defence of the action brought by Richard Hayden, the managing director of Rayden Engineering Ltd, which has an annual turnover of 10m and employs more than 100 people.

In 2009, Mr Hayden and his company sued over articles published by Mrs Charlton, of Ilkeston in Derbyshire, on various websites, including one run by pensioner Mike Carver, whose defence Mrs Charlton also took on.

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Mrs Justice Sharp, who yesterday gave her reasons for striking out the claims, said the dispute began in 2006 when the company put an eight-foot steel palisade fence around a triangle of land it planned to use for storage which backed on to Wentworth Street.

Among Mrs Charlton's complaints were that the land had been fenced off without planning permission, mature trees had been felled, a bat habitat had been destroyed, uneven hardstanding had been laid which caused neighbouring properties to flood after heavy rain, and that residents had suffered harassment.

Before a hearing in October, Mrs Charlton lodged paginated bundles, skeleton arguments, a chronology, a pre-reading list and an itemised bill of costs with supporting receipts attached - while Mr Hayden and his company lodged no bundles and served no evidence.

Their counsel could offer no excuses but added that his clients were very preoccupied with their business and had not directed their attention to the proceedings.