CHAPTER 16 – OUR LIBEL WRIT AGAINST SHELL
On 18th April 1998 we were surprised to learn from Rachel Oldroyd, a reporter from a UK national newspaper - the “Financial Mail On Sunday”, that Shell UK Limited had issued a press statement that clearly inferred that previous claims DM had brought against Shell were bogus, thus repeating the libel of March 1995.
The following day, the “Mail On Sunday” contained a report written by Rachel Oldroyd quoting from the Shell press statement. Shell issued a further libellous press statement on 25th April 1998 and then on 27th April 1998, capped it all by circulating a letter to its service station network containing a further libel. A trade magazine subsequently published an article relying on the information in Shell’s press statements.
What Shell had not anticipated is that we would get our hands on the offending statements and the letter. Friendly publications and service stations managers had been happy to supply us with copies so that we had an array of hard evidence against Shell. We also discovered from discovery documents that on 14th April Shell UK Limited circulated a libellous statement about us to Shell staff.
In view of the past history of the claims, including the various high level apologies, the insinuations were distressing and damaging. No one is likely to want to deal with an agency that brings bogus claims against its clients.
What made it even more galling is that DJ Freeman had previously warned us in writing about us issuing ANY press statements concerning the previous litigation. They said it would be a breach of the agreements. Apparently they believed that the relevant agreements were binding on David but not on Goliath.
Our solicitors wrote to DJ Freeman putting them on notice that the press statements constituted a fundamental breach of the agreements with Shell and as a consequence, the agreements were null and void. Richard Woodman stated in his letter: “As to your final paragraph the fact is that the press releases are self-evidently in breach of the Funding Deed and there is no room to argue to the contrary”.
Any possible argument on the matter was removed as a result of a meeting which journalist Simon Rines had at Shell-Mex House on 10th September 1998 with Richard Wiseman, and Colin Joseph of DJ Freeman. They actually discussed with him the terms of the highly confidential agreement with us and showed him a copy of the Defence and Counterclaim document filed by Shell, which contained details of the agreement. Simon Rines and Shell separately tape-recorded the interview. On 14th September 1998, my son gave me a copy of a letter he had received by fax that day from DJ Freeman confirming that Simon Rines had been shown a copy of the Defence And Counterclaim. Simon Rines was in the process of writing a story for The Guardian national newspaper. The disclosures made to the reporter provided further evidence that Shell had breached the agreements, bringing them to an end by their own actions.
My son issued a Writ for libel against Shell UK Limited. Shell subsequently tried without success to have the action struck out on the basis that the words used were not potentially libellous. A High Court Judge, Mr Justice Eady, ordered Shell to pay the costs of the hearing held at the Royal Courts of Justice in London. Shell responded to the Writ by bringing separate Counterclaims against Don Marketing, my son and against me in respect of the SMART claim.. In the Counterclaim, they cited a letter that my son sent to Prime Minister Tony Blair, which advised him about certain sinister events mentioned in the next chapter.
Money changed hands in a compromise settlement covering more that one of my sons High Court Actions against Shell before he agreed to withdrew his libel claim against them.
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