Hamilton accuser's assets to remain frozen, court told

A High Court judge today continued an order freezing the assets of the woman who accused former Tory minister Neil Hamilton and his wife Christine of sexual assault.

The couple were at the High Court in London to hear the result of the first courtroom skirmish in the libel action they have launched against Nadine Milroy-Sloan.

Mr Justice Aikens, following a two-hour hearing yesterday, ruled that it was "just and convenient" for the freezing order to continue as there was, in his view, a risk that money obtained by Ms Milroy-Sloan in the future could be "unjustifiably dissipated" in the absence of such an order.

However, he said the order did not cover her personal payment of £22,500 for an interview with the News of the World as long as it was used for the purpose of setting up a fund for her children's education.

In giving his ruling the judge said the facts of the case as they appeared from the evidence were "striking, even bizarre".

Ms Milroy-Sloan's lawyers had urged him to discharge the order.

Today's ruling relates to an order previously granted to the Hamiltons allowing the freezing of Ms Milroy-Sloan's assets up to the value of £400,000 until a court has had the opportunity to decide whether libel damages should be paid to the couple.

Police announced on Tuesday that there would be no further action against the couple who were accused by Ms Milroy-Sloan, 28, of sexually assaulting her while another man allegedly raped her in a flat in Ilford, Essex, on May 5.

Legal experts said that if bankrupt Mr Hamilton were to win libel damages, the money would go to Harrods owner Mohamed Al Fayed, to whom he still owes more than £1 million from the "cash-for-questions" court case.

Mr Justice Aikens said of Ms Milroy-Sloan, a divorcee and mother-of-four: "She lives in Grimsby in rented accommodation with two of her children.

"She is unemployed and lives on income support and child benefit. Her bank account is at present overdrawn."

Ms Milroy-Sloan's solicitor had told how, the judge said, she was "besieged" by the media and the reason she gave an interview to the News of the World was because she believed this was the only way to stop this happening.

Prior to the interview an agreement had been

reached between the News of the World, Ms Milroy-Sloan and her mother that the newspaper would pay Ms Milroy-Sloan £5,000 in cash, a further sum of £45,000 to her parents and £1,000 to a rape charity.

The judge said Ms Milroy-Sloan agreed with her mother that the £45,000 should be split between them and that her £22,500 share would be kept by her parents for her children.

Ms Milroy-Sloan had received the £5,000, but the sum of £45,000 had not been paid because of the freezing order, said the judge.

The Hamiltons accepted they had given interviews to the media for which Mrs Hamilton had been paid around £35,000.

Everyone now knew the police had dropped their

investigation, he said. The police accepted the Hamiltons could not have been anywhere near the flat where the rape was alleged to have taken place.

He pointed out that Ms Milroy-Sloan's solicitor said her complaint to the police was made in "good faith" and she believed that the two people present were the Hamiltons.

Mr Hamilton, speaking outside the court after the hearing, said: "We have taken this action on a point of principle.

"It would be quite wrong for individuals in the position of Ms Milroy-Sloan to profit from their unlawful acts."

He said it was a "gross abuse" of the privilege for alleged rape victims.

"I hope this is a lesson for gold diggers everywhere that they will not be able to profit from their actions."

Earlier his solicitor, Michael Coleman, promised that any money the Hamiltons made from the future libel proceedings would go to charity.

"The appropriate charity in view of the tragic events in Kent is the Police Orphans Fund."

He said outside court: "These proceedings are not being brought to make money.

"They are about upholding the reputations of Mr and Mrs Hamilton and denying a profit to Ms Milroy-Sloan."

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