31 JULY 1964, Page 6

Settlement of Action between Mr. lain Hamilton and The Spectator


The action between Mr. lain Hamilton and The Spectator Ltd. has been settled. The following state- ment was made in the Queen's Bench Division before Mr. Justice Gorman on July 29, 1964, by Lord Gardiner, QC : 'In these consolidated actions the Plaintiff, for whom I appear, together with Mr. John Wilmers, is Mr. Jain Hamilton, a well-known journalist, who until 7th November last was Editor of the Spectator.

The Defendants, for whom my learned friends Mr. Desmond Ackner, QC, Mr. David Hirst and Mr. Peter Webster, appear, are The Spectator Limited, the proprietors of the Spectator, and Mr. Ian Gilmour, Mr. Herbert Janes, and Mr. Frederick Elliot who are all directors of The Spectator Limited.

'By an Agreement in writing dated 26th February, 1962, The Speotator Limited agreed to employ Mr. Hamilton as Editor of the Spectator for a period of five years from 15th February, 1962, and there- after until the Agreement should be determined by either party giving to the other not less than 12 calendar months previous notice in writing at any time after the fourth year of the five-year period of the contract.

`On 7th November, 1963, when the Agreement had still more than 3 years to run, The Spectator Limited summarily determined the Plaintiff's em- ployment under the Agreement. The first action is a claim for damages arising out of the determina- tion of the Plaintiff's services. The Spectator Limited have throughout accepted their obligation to pay the appropriate compensation to the Plaintiff for an admitted breach of contract. The proper amount has now been agreed between the parties and has been paid to Mr. Hamilton, together with his in- demnity costs, in full and final settlement of the first action.

'The second action, which is an action in libel, arises out of the events leading up to and imme- diately following the termination of Mr. Hamilton's services as Editor of the Spectator.

'On the 31st October, 1963, there appeared a report in an evening newspaper that Mr. Jain Macleod was to be appointed editor of the Spectator. This appointment had in fact been offered to Mr. Macleod by Mr. Gilmour on behalf of The Spectator Limited on 27th October, 1963, and accepted by him on 30th October, 1963; most unfortunately, and entirely contrary to the wishes of the Defendants, news of this appointment reached the newspaper concerned, and upon publication therein came to Mr. Hamilton's knowledge before he had received any intimation from any of the Defendants.

`Mr. Hamilton, having no knowledge of the specific appointment of Mr. Macleod, was completely taken aback by the news of the appointment, and in a number of press interviews during the early days of November he described his surprise.

'The Defendants recognise that Mr. Hamilton's expressions of surprise at Mr. Macleod's appointment were completely sincere. However, on a number of occasions in the summer of 1963 Mr. Gilmour, Mr. Janes and Mr. Elliot as the three executive direc- tors of The Spectator Limited, other than Mr. Hamilton, discussed the question of a possible change of editorship, and on 2nd August, 1963, these three directors decided in principle that a change should be made, though no question of the specific appointment of Mr. Macleod arose until mid- October. This decision however was not conveyed to Mr. Hamilton or the two non-executive directors. On 17th September, 1963, Mr. Gilmour in a con- versation with Mr. Hamilton, as he thought, endeavoured to warn Mr. Hamilton as tactfully as he could of their decision, and in a further con- versation on 27th September Mr. Janes also be- lieved that he had conveyed a similar warning.

'Unfortunately Mr. Hamilton understood neither conversation in the sense intended by Mr. Janes and Mr. Gilmour, though he for his part recognises their complete sincerity in the matter.

'On 7th November the Defendants issued a Press Release which is the subject matter of this action.

`Mr. Hamilton felt that he could not leave Un- corrected any impression which might have been left by the Press Release that his expression of surprise was insincere, although the Defendants never intended to cast any such reflection upon his statements.

`This second action has thus achieved the happY result of clearing up the serious misunderstandings between the two sides. The Defendants recognise that it would be inappropriate that any burden of expense should rest upon the Plaintiff as a result of the liti- gation, and have agreed to indemnify him in respect of his costs; on these terms all parties are content to let the matter rest.'

Mr. Ackner said :

Tor their part the Defendants wish to be asso- ciated with all that my learned friend has just said. They greatly regret that owing to a series of unfor- tunate misunderstandings the Plaintiff should have felt it necessary to bring these actions, now happily settled.