London, Sunday, April 16, 2000
Second front: David Irving lost his battle to exonerate Hitler, now he faces an assault on his finances. The 4,000 people who he says backed him may be pursued for costs, too [*]
Hunt for Irving's backers as lawyers seek £2m costs
by Nick Fielding
SUPPORTERS of the racist historian David Irving are to be pursued for payment of £2m in costs incurred in his libel action which failed last week.
Although Irving appears to have little money, defence lawyers say they will not let the matter go. "Irving will be pursued for every penny of the costs, and if we don't get the money from him we will go to the judge and ask him to order Irving to divulge the names of his financial backers," said Mike Whine, (left), a spokesman for the Board of Deputies of British Jews and a member of the defence team in the action.
Irving sued Deborah Lipstadt, an American academic, and her publisher, Penguin Books, for libel, claiming she had accused him of denying the existence of the Holocaust. He lost the case and was described by the judge as a racist who falsified history to exonerate Hitler of involvement in the mass murder of Jews.
Facing humiliation, Irving said he received backing from about 4,000 supporters, including 2,000 in the United States, 900 in Britain and 1,200 in other parts of the world. He has said that donations to his "fighting fund" have ranged from £1 to £50,000, reaching a total of £340,000.
These donors will now be chased for payment of costs by Mishcon de Reya, the lawyers who acted for Lipstadt and Penguin, on the grounds that they helped to sustain the case. A similar move was made earlier this year when defence lawyers in a failed libel case brought by Neil Hamilton, the former MP, decided to pursue his backers for costs.
Irving has few funds to meet the bill. His income appears to have declined in recent yars and he has a history of financial difficulties. He has faced at least three bankruptcy hear on petitions brought by former solicitors whom he had failed to pay, although each time he managed to produce funds at the last minute.
His prime asset is a flat in Duke Street, central London, but it is heavily mortgaged to the Bradford & Bingley building society. It has also been beset with claims including a caution in favour of Rowohlt, the German publisher, an petition for bankruptcy from firm of London solicitors.
There have been at least six other charges on the property mostly resulting from disputes over legal fees during the eight years. Nor has he always managed to maintain his mortgage payments. In 1998 his arrears on the property were over £65,000 after he had not paid his monthly mortgage for two years.
Irving also has a number of county court judgments against him, mostly for small amounts.
Although discredited, Irving may hope to earn some money from lecture tours, but even his "fighting fund" support is patchy. In Germany and the United States -- where he has an account at a bank in Florida -- his funds have received only modest donations on a regular basis and are both effectively inactive.
His main source of income continues to be from his books, which still sell reasonably well in American and produce a monthly income in the region of $10,000.
When in America, where he has spent a great deal of time, Irving often stays in Key West, Florida, in a house owned by Sam G Dickson. There were calls to exclude Dickson from Britain in 1992 when he was due to speak at a conference organised by Irving and others.
Dickson supports an organisation called American Renaissance, whose website carries advertisements for the American Friends of the British National Party.
According to Irving's web-site, the historian is likely to resist any move to unmask his supporters. "They know what is at stake and they have wholeheartedly supported him," it stated last week. "He has no intention of revealing their names and identities."
If he cannot meet the costs himself and refuses to divulge the names of his backers, it is possible that he could face jail. In another financial dispute in 1994 he refused to disclose details of his assets and spent a short spell in Pentonville prison for his trouble.
* Website comment: The problems for the Mike Whine's and the other "Shylocks" of this world are (a) they do not know the addresses of Mr Irving's relevant supporters, and never will; (b) to be attacked by the British legal system, they have to be living within the jurisdiction of the British courts; (c) they have to have contributed £5,000 or more to the legal fund; and (d) Mr Irving will probably win his appeal against the Judgment anyway. . . No such legal moves have yet been taken agaisnt Hamilton's financial supporters in the UK.
London, Sunday, April 16, 2000