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Judge blocks fraudster's libel action against Somerset weekly

An attempt by a convicted fraudster to sue two newspapers over articles which suggested that he took a £10,000 bribe to drop his objections to a major planning proposal has been rejected by a High Court judge.

Terence Ewing, who was jailed for seven years in 1981 for a number of fraud offences, claimed the articles which appeared in printed editions of The Sunday Times and the Northcliffe-owned Weston and Worle News in February last year were defamatory.

But Mr Justice Coulson said Mr Ewing had taken so long to bring the libel actions it suggested he did not have a “genuine grievance.”

Mr Ewing has previously made the subject of a court order aimed at “vexatious litigants” – people who habitually abuse the judicial process by launching pointless or frivolous legal actions.

The articles in question said he had raised objections to plans for a major development in Weston-super-Mare through an organisation he ran called the Euston Trust, and that he had dropped the objections after the developers paid him £10,000.

After the articles were published, Mr Justice Coulson said, Mr Ewing complained to the Press Complaints Commission, but made no mention of a libel action.

It was only after the PCC rejected all his complaints – that he had been harassed, that his privacy was invaded and that material was published in breach of a duty of confidence – that he started the libel proceedings.

“That would suggest that the alleged libel was not a genuine grievance,” said the judge.

The judge said that Mr Ewing’s claims had no real prospect of success and were an abuse of process.

Since 1990, Mr Ewing had launched a total of 37 vexatious actions, the court heard.