Gillettes’ legal costs could leave union reeling

The Gillettes. Photo: Devil Management
The Gillettes. Photo: Devil Management
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Equity stands to lose hundreds of thousands of pounds after being ordered to pay costs as part of a defamation hearing that ran for four years.

As reported in The Stage earlier this month, the union funded legal action on behalf of a group called the Gillettes. The members of this group claimed they had been defamed by Jason Spiller, who runs a booking agency called 1311 Events, when he posted comments about them on his website.

While the high court this month agreed that the Gillettes had been defamed, the judge, Justice Tugendhat, said they would receive only nominal damages after it emerged fabricated evidence had been used by Craig Joseph, from the Gillettes, in court.

In his approved judgement, seen by The Stage this week, Tugendhat said the Gillettes would be entitled to just 1p in damages, and added that they must pay 75% of the defendant’s costs, other than those costs “in respect of which orders have already been made”.

It is understood that Equity has already spent about £200,000 on its own costs for the trial, and paid out £130,000 to the defendants over the four-year period.

A source close to the proceedings said the union was now looking at a “big” bill in relation to the latest judgment.

In the approved judgement, Tugendhat said he agreed with the defence’s assertion that “the claimants [the Gillettes] are not the successful party – an award of nominal damages is a failure, not a success. The cure has been worse than the disease.”

Equity is expected to appeal against the decision.


  1. Equity fails to demonstrate any rigor in its assessment of this case and commits to an expensive legal action all too readily.
    Surely, this can have nothing to do with the fact that both the Equity General Secretary’s husband and daughter work for Equity’s solicitors.

  2. On a VERY serious note:

    Case Law: Joseph v Spiller, Are Nominal Damages Appropriate When the Court is Deceived? – Hugh Tomlinson QC


    This is the kind of action which gives libel a bad name. After several hearings at first instance, two appeals and hundreds of thousands of pounds in legal costs the court has concluded that two allegations made on a website were false and awarded nominal damages (not stated but presumably £1 or perhaps 1p). Neither the claimants nor the defendants have come out of the case unscathed and the judge was clearly unimpressed with important parts of the evidence from both sides of the case.

    But the most interesting aspect of the case is the judge’s decision to award nominal damages as a result of the attempt by the first claimant to deceive the court.

    This is a novel way of dealing with the abuse of the Court’s process. In his recent lecture “Lies, damned lies: Abuse of process and the dishonest litigant” [pdf] Lord Reed noted a number of possible approaches to the dishonest litigant. A number of these involve dismissal of the claim on the basis that the dishonest litigant had forfeited his right to have the case heard or because the dishonest conduct has made fair trial impossible. But his concern was how to deal with findings of dishonesty made before the conclusion of the trial.


    On a VERY serious note, I now expect Equity, in support of the wider membership in this hugely significant loss of Members’ funds, to bring about charges AGAINST The Gillettes, for their dishonesty and deception, not ruling out Court Action against them to recoup lost funds.

    Furthermore, Equity should now undertake an urgent reassessment of just how this sorry, wastefull matter came about, reprimand/remove those involved and change it’s process so that this cannot happen again. That includes severing the link, and potential conflict of interests between the current General Secretary and her family employed by the lawfirm that Equity engage to act on it’s behalf.

  3. Without knowing the full story, I still do really have to wonder about Equity – taking this case forward!

    I was defamed by crooked acting/modelling agencies, while an Equity Councillor. I had concrete blocks thrown through my home windows, twice and other awful events too numerous to mention.

    But Equity never came to my rescue, instead the General Secretary tried to belittle my efforts to get walk-ons an increase under the ITV/Pact agreements.

    Equity would not support me when agents stopped giving me work, because of my campaigning. Equity refused to make any allowances, in my favour. However, they can squander members money on – this?

    It absolutely beggars belief!

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