A leading Doncaster sports personality is facing up to a £12,500 bill after being sued for libel by a man she publicly branded a ‘paedophile’.
Former Olympian taekwondo competitor Kathy Hook lost a court battle with Paul Ford, aged 63, who claims he was attacked by vigilantes after she posted about 50 defamatory fliers through neighbours’ doors in the Bentley street where he lives.
Mrs Hook admits she was ‘hot-headed’ when she carried out the smear campaign.
She claims she had previously been harassed by Mr Ford in a long-running dispute over the Ultimate tae kwondo club she runs in Armthorpe.
The 44-year-old says she cannot afford to pay the libel damages and is planning a counter-claim against Mr Ford.
She is considering appealing against the libel damages.
Mr Ford, of Rosedale Road, took the case to Sheffield County Court.
There a judge awarded him £10,000 in libel damages, £1,850 for his legal advice costs, and £650 for his own time on the case, which Mrs Hook did not attend because she was on holiday.
It is believed to be one the first cases of its kind in Doncaster, where a private individual has sued another person for libel.
Mr Ford decided to take action after an incident in 2011 when he discovered printed A4 size sheets had been delivered to houses around his home which read: “Do you know you have a paedophile on your street?”
It gave his name and address and added: “Arrested last year – found with videos of children in his house.”
Mrs Hook was given a police caution but Mr Ford took civil action because he wanted to clear his name.
He said: “The county court judge ruled I had no case to answer and awarded me damages. The money is not the important issue.
“I just want a normal life. I’ve been attacked and suffered black eyes and had my scooter smashed up because of these fliers. My life has been a nightmare since this. I feel I can get my life back.
“I’ll probably get the money eventually but that’s not the point. I needed my name clearing. The fliers said I’d done this and I had done none of it.”
Mrs Hook, who lives in a detached house in Armthorpe with her family, says she will not be able to pay the £12,500 court order by the deadline of October 29.
Mr Ford’s solicitor, Brian Wrigley, of Sheffield law firm Norrie Waite, said: “This started when Mr Ford had a fall-out with Kathy Hook over some incident at the tae kwondo club involving his daughter about 12 years ago.
“It was like an acorn that grew into an enormous oak tree and became out of control. It all exploded with absolutely no justification when she decided to distribute this note. It couldn’t have been more libellous.”
The unfounded allegation referred to videos Mr Ford took of his two children, who are now adults, when they took part in martial arts classes.
But he maintains the videos, which can be found on YouTube and are available for anyone to view at his house, are completely innocent and contain nothing of a sexual nature.
Mrs Hook contended the films showed other children who he did not have permission to film.
Mr Wrigley added: “Obviously some people in Bentley were prepared to believe this libel and took their own action. It is very rare for an individual to win a libel case against another and I am delighted that justice has been done.”
Ms Hook represented Great Britain at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 and has won medals in World Championships, competing in more championships than any other British competitor.
In 2012 was named the Unsung Hero of Yorkshire in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards.
The case went to court last year but Mrs Hook’s request for an adjournment because of a pre-booked £3,000 holiday clashing with the court date was refused by the judge.
She said: “I will be issuing proceedings against him for harassment and slander for what he has said about me.
“I think the judgment is totally unfair and people will see him as the hero in this. To me he has won a hollow victory.”
Referring to the libellous fliers, she added: “In hindsight it was not a good idea. It was something I did on my own. I did it in a hot-headed moment. It was a stupid thing to do. You learn from your mistakes.”