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C4 Jackson doc faking charges dropped

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Tito Jackson attending Karen Millen's party celebrating her receiving an OBE

© Rex Features

Michael Jackson's former bodyguard Matthew Fiddes has dropped his libel case against a Channel 4 documentary, a day before the trial was due to begin at the High Court.

The trial was scheduled to get under way today, but Fiddes has opted to abandon his action against Channel 4, the programme's producer Studio Lambert and director Jane Preston.

West Country native Fiddes, who previously acted as Michael Jackson's bodyguard on UK visits, agreed to participate in the Channel 4 documentary, titled The Jacksons Are Coming, as it followed members of the famous family relocating to Devon.

However, the 30-year-old martial arts expert claimed that the Cutting Edge programme, aired on November 27, 2008, featured elements that were wholly fabricated.

After the court of appeal recently upheld a decision to hear the trial without a jury, Fiddes submitted what he claimed to be "a highly relevant and significant document" to the court last week.

He said that the new evidence had only recently been discovered, but the defendants alleged that the document was a forgery, leading to Fiddes withdrawing his fakery allegations and the case collapsing.

Fiddes was being represented on a CFA "no win no fee" arrangement and so will not receive any payments of his legal costs or damages. It is believed that the trial to date has cost over £3 million.

Channel 4, Studio Lambert and Preston have vigorously defended their innocence in the case and pointed to the "overwhelming evidence that Matt Fiddes had betrayed the trust of the Jackson family by leaking information to the press".

Julian Bellamy, head of Channel 4, said that the broadcaster is "delighted that this unmeritorious claim has been discontinued".

He added: "This case illustrates the chilling effect that exorbitant legal costs in CFA funded libel claims can have on broadcaster's freedom of expression.

"The claim was flawed from the outset and it is a damning indictment of the current libel system in the UK that the claimant has been allowed to tie up the Court's valuable time and the defendants' resources for so long."

In a joint statement, Studio Lambert chief executive Stephen Lambert and Preston said: "We are delighted that, after nearly two years of fighting this libel case, these false allegations against us have been withdrawn and our reputations have been vindicated.

"We wish to thank Channel 4, our legal team and the Jackson family for their considerable and unwavering support throughout this time."

Tito Jackson, his mother Katharine and other members of the Jackson family had all given detailed witness statements supporting the documentary, and were also due to give evidence in person at the trial.

In a statement today, Katharine Jackson said: "Jane's documentary showed what happened to us; that Fiddes, who said he was a friend, let us down badly. He tried to use us to his own advantage, and when things didn't go his way, he behaved badly.

"Fiddes tried to pretend that he was a close friend of my son Michael, but when I spoke to Michael about him, he could not remember who he was. The whole family was deeply upset by interviews he gave shortly after Michael's death, which no friend would have done.

"After that, Fiddes wrote to my son Tito and said that if we gave evidence against him on behalf of Jane and the others, then we would regret it. We decided we were going to come and tell the truth about him anyway. You have to stand up to people like this.

"We are all very happy for Channel 4, Studio Lambert and Jane Preston that Fiddes has dropped his claims of fakery against the programme and discontinued the action."

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