Leeds United chairman Ken Bates gets £10,000 harassment bill

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Ken Bates Ken Bates

Leeds United chairman Ken Bates has been ordered to pay £10,000 to an ex-director who sued him for harassment.

Melvyn Levi and his wife Carole claimed they suffered stress as a result of announcements on the club radio station allegedly likening Mr Levi to a criminal on the run.

They also claimed comments made by Mr Bates in his match day programme notes amounted to speculation over the state of their marriage.

Mr Levi was awarded £10,000 in compensation at Leeds County Court but his wife's claim failed.

Judge Mark Gosnell said: "Mr Levi has succeeded in his claim and has been awarded £10,000 and Mrs Levi's claim has failed."

Mr Bates is also now subject to an injunction banning him from discussing Mr Levi's private life in public for two years.

But the Leeds chairman is allowed to mention the on-going commercial dispute between the two, known as the "Jersey proceedings", as well as other non-private matters.

Explaining why he was granting the injuction, the judge said: "I cannot think of a better reason than the delving into Mr Levi's private life in what is a commercial dispute between Mr Levi and Mr Bates which I hope will be resolved by someone else on another day."

Mr Levi claimed radio announcements asking for information on his whereabouts during a Leeds match on Boxing Day 2010 likened him to "a fugitive".

Over that Christmas period, Mr Bates was trying to serve a writ against Mr Levi but found out from his wife that he was away until the new year.

The Leeds chairman was pursuing legal action against Mr Levi for £190,400 Mr Bates claims he and another party owed the club - the subject of the Jersey proceedings.

At an earlier hearing, Mr Bates was accused of using the club's programme to pursue a personal vendetta and make the lives of the Levis "a misery" after he wrote an article in January last year speculating on why the couple had "split" over the festive season.

In 2009 Mr Levi sued Mr Bates for libel over articles written in the programme and the Leeds chairman was ordered to pay £50,000 damages plus costs to Mr Levi.

Mr Bates, Leeds United and Yorkshire Radio have been ordered to pay the damages, their own legal costs and 30 per cent of the Levis' legal costs.

It emerged during the case that the Boxing Day 2010 radio announcement was played numerous times and a similar message had been broadcast on two days in the previous week.

The announcement said: "Leeds United are currently searching for the whereabouts of Melvyn Levi to serve him some papers in relation to a High Court action in Jersey.

"Now, if you've seen the former Leeds United director, you're being asked to get in touch with Yorkshire Radio and let us know where and when you saw him."

Mr Bates's programme notes of January 1 2011, entitled "Onwards and Upwards", said: "As I write, we have not served Mr Levi with his writ as his wife said he was away until New Year which makes me speculate as to why they split for the festive season.

"No matter, the procedure will be processed in 2011. Watch this space for continuing exciting news of a saga which will soon challenge Coronation Street as a long-running soap."

In his written judgment, Judge Gosnall said he was convinced Mr Bates's comments had genuinely upset Mr Levi.

He said: "I formed the view that the events of December 2010 to April 2011 were a considerable blow to the first claimant (Mr Levi).

"He described how he had become anxious before every home game, never knowing when he would be referred to in the programme.

"He said this fear abated somewhat after the libel proceedings when he thought the problem had ended.

"He said it was a shock and very upsetting to find that the problem had started again and there seemed to be no end to it.

"This was then made worse when he read the programme on January 1 2011 with its veiled reference to the state of his marriage and he again felt upset and angry about that.

"He has low mood and anxiety, constantly ruminates on why the first defendant (Mr Bates) has had such a grudge against him for so long, he has sleep disturbance, a sense of fear and is on edge.

"He says the thing he fears the most is being accosted or attacked as a result of all the things which have been said about him."

Nobody representing Leeds United attended court.

Spaking after the judgment, Mr Levi said he estimated that Mr Bates, Leeds United or both had spent close to £4 million fighting legal battles against him.

He said: "I'm just pleased to say that my wife and myself are happy that the matter has come to a conclusion in our favour.

"I have been totally vindicated as always - this is the second time.

"If Mr Bates would kindly look after Leeds United, not keep attacking me or anybody else for that matter who has nothing to do with the club.

"I have been fighting him for six and a half years now and it's long enough. I believe, and I've been through it with my lawyers, that Mr Bates or Leeds United or anybody else together have spent coming up to £4 million in trying to fight two old age pensioners and that's what we are.

"I think it's absolutely disgraceful. If Mr Bates would be very kind to leave me and my wife alone we would be very pleased."

Speaking about the costs the defendants have been ordered to pay, Mr Levi said: "It'll come no doubt out of Leeds United and the consequences of that is that players won't be bought probably.

"I do know if Mr Bates didn't bother with these actions there would be more money to go into buying players at the club and not have this ridiculous situation where I'm in court every two years with a row with Mr Bates."

A statement issued by Leeds United said: "It has been our position throughout that this case could and should have been resolved without getting to court. From the outset, efforts were made by the club to settle the case without substantial costs being incurred.

"Mrs Levi's claim for damages and an injunction failed in its entirety, whilst Mr Levi was awarded a sum of money which he had been offered months previously.

"The substantial reductions in the costs claimed by Mr Levi reflect the fact that his claim failed in a number of respects.

"Whilst the court has granted permission to appeal, the club will take time to consider its options."

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