£18,000 payout for cafe owner slandered by British Gas

Can Say
Can Say

A FORMER cafe owner has been awarded more than £18,000 damages after he was slandered by a British Gas worker.

Can Say, who ran the Corby Cafe, in George Street, in the town, took British Gas Services to the High Court in London after his electricity was mistakenly cut off in 2008. Mr Say claimed the bailiff who went to cut the power slandered him in front of his customers by falsely saying he had not paid his bill.

The company admitted the disconnection was a blunder on their part, but denied their employee had said anything defamatory.

But now a top judge has awarded Mr Say £18,747 total damages for the slander and the losses incurred during the 10-day power cut.

Speaking outside court, Mr Say, the son of a former Cypriot MP, said he was pleased that the judge had found in his favour, but the money would not compensate him for the three years of stress he had lived through while fighting the case.

Judge Bernard Livesey QC told the court Mr Say’s son, Hildi, ran the cafe using a business name of Kingdom Catering Ltd, from 2005 to 2008. However, “for whatever reason”, a £2,000 debt was run up to British Gas before, after a brief closure, his father took over. Despite Mr Say writing to British Gas and telling them the business had changed hands, it sent round a bailiff and an engineer on August 28, 2008, to disconnect the supply.

Mr Say told the bailiff that the debt was not his to pay, but he would square up anyway to prevent the disconnection, the judge said.

The bailiff then informed him that he needed to pay more than £6,000, to pay for the power he had used since taking over the cafe and “a new customer deposit”.

When Mr Say protested, the bailiff called the police, who helped the engineer get to the supply and cut it off. During the argument, the judge found the bailiff had slandered Mr Say by wrongly telling a customer that the power was being disconnected because he had not paid his bill.

Mr Say paid the full amount demanded later that day, but British Gas took until September 5 to return the power to his cafe. The judge awarded Mr Say more than £12,000 damages for the slander, and a further £6,000 for the losses due the unlawful disconnection.

A spokesman for British Gas said: “We apologise to Mr Say for the inconvenience caused by an error in our change of tenancy procedures. This case involved a complex site history which resulted in a billing mistake.”