Leeds woman ordered to pay £35,000 after she lied to church congregation about man's 'threat to slit her throat'

The Seventh Day Adventist Church where the allegation centred around
The Seventh Day Adventist Church where the allegation centred around

A businessman has won £35,000 High Court damages from a Leeds woman who told a church congregation that he had threatened to slit her throat.

Raj Dhir, 75, brought a rare slander claim against Bronte Saddler, who is also in her 70s and a member of the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Meanwood Road, Leeds.

One of Mrs Saddler's sons, Andrew, has, since 2001, had an on-off relationship with Mr Dhir's daughter, Reena, which has led the two families into conflict and acrimony, said Mr Justice Nicklin on Wednesday.

In July 2015, 90 members of the Church gathered to hear the Dhir family's complaint about the Saddlers and reference was made to a meeting with Mrs Saddler at her home the previous September.

When Mrs Saddler, who is known as Annie, was given an opportunity to speak, it was not disputed that she said that, at that meeting, Mr Dhir "threatened to slit my throat".

The judge, giving his ruling in London, said he was quite satisfied that the seriousness of the allegation and the circumstances of its publication were such that Mr Dhir had demonstrated that serious harm had been caused to his reputation.

He had come to the firm conclusion that Mrs Saddler had not proved that Mr Dhir made a threat to kill at the September meeting.

"Indeed, I have come to the positive conclusion that he did not," he said.

He said that he had to leave unresolved the question of why Mrs Saddler made the false allegation.

"I do not need to find a reason why the defendant has lied; I simply need to be satisfied on the evidence that she has," he said.

He added that it must have been acutely embarrassing and upsetting for Mr Dhir to witness the attack on his reputation.

In evidence, Mr Dhir, owner of Harewood International Products LLP in Leeds, had said: "This has not only been tremendously traumatic for me personally since my intention in contacting her was always resolution and she has used this to attack me.

"It is also extremely detrimental to my business which is part of the local community and upon which my family and staff rely."

The judge said that damages must be sufficient to satisfy any bystander that there was nothing in the allegation.

The "appropriate and proportionate" award was £35,000.