Paul McKenna wins court battle over fraud claims - at a price
The TV hypnotist faces picking up a big slice of a £1.5million legal bill while receiving damages that could be as low as £20,000. He was also counting the cost of being exposed as a victim of a scam which saw him work for an unaccredited doctorate.
Mr Justice Eady said McKenna, 42, must bear some responsibility for a 'curious case ... (in which) both sides seem to have been determined to fight themselves to a standstill'. He added: 'What all this has achieved is open to question.'
McKenna - a former radio DJ who now runs a self-help empire with an annual turnover of £2.5million - had sued the Daily Mirror after columnist Victor Lewis-Smith accused him of boasting about having a PhD despite knowing it was fake.
The doctorate in hypnotherapy, which the TV star had gained from La Salle university in Louisiana in 1997, had been the subject of regular mocking by the Mirror, and Lewis-Smith in particular, McKenna said.
For six years he ignored the barbed comments which, he said, had made him 'a laughing stock'.
But, in October 2003, he decided enough was enough after Lewis-Smith wrote: 'I discovered that anyone could be fully doctored by Lasalle within months (no previous qualifications needed), just so long as they could answer the following question correctly, "Do you have 2,615 dollars, sir?".'
During the hearing, the High Court heard that La Salle was not officially accredited to award doctorate degrees.
Instead, it had been accredited by an organisation called the Council for Post-Secondary Christian Education - a bogus body set up by the La Salle's founder, Thomas Kirk, who later pleaded guilty to fraud.
None of this however was known to McKenna until after he got his PhD, the court was told. The hypnotist was simply one of La Salle's many 'innocent victims'.
What's more, rather than simply 'getting a degree in exchange for a cheque', McKenna had spent more than 500 hours on a 50,000 word thesis, later published in his best-selling book Change Your Life in Seven Days.
In his ruling, the judge openly questioned the value of the degree. However, he was adamant that McKenna had not tried to 'hoodwink' the court or the public when he referred to his PhD in his promotional material. He described the entertainer's performance in the witness box as 'determined, indignant, and manifestly proud of his work (whatever anybody else may think of it)'. He concluded: 'Mr McKenna was not, in my judgment, dishonest and, for that matter, whatever one may think of the academic quality of the work, or of the degree granted by La Salle, it would not be accurate to describe it as "bogus".
'It was certainly not granted merely for money. The claimant is therefore entitled to succeed on liability.'
Lowly academic credentials
But any sense of triumph McKenna felt will be tempered by the ordeal of having had his lowly academic credentials pored over in public. Even the entertainer himself appeared doubtful as to whether the court action had enhanced his reputation.
He told Channel 4 News: 'Well, certainly, by bringing this to court - something I did not want to do - has actually put it on the radar. 'But I felt that I had no choice as I had to restore my reputation and protect the livelihood of those people that work for me. He (Lewis-Smith) did not show any signs of stopping saying these things.'
McKenna was born in Enfield, North London, the son of a builder and a home economics teacher. After leaving school with few qualifications, he began working as a DJ before joining Capital Radio in London in the mid-1980s.
His interest in hypnotism, however, soon took precedence. His television programmes, The Paranormal World of Paul McKenna and The Hypnotic World of Paul McKenna, regularly attracted 12million viewers, and he acquired a raft of celebrity clients such as Sophie Dahl, David Beckham and Tara Palmer-Tomkinson.
He now lives in West London with a fortune in excess of £ 10million and hosts weight-loss and corporate leadership seminars which sell for up to £7,000 a ticket.
Although now single, his former girlfriends include GMTV's Penny Smith, golfer Colin Montgomerie's ex-wife Eimear and former fiancÈe, Claire Staples, who now works as his manager.
The case cost McKenna an estimated £5million in lost earnings because poor ticket sales led to the cancellation of tour dates.
The Daily Mirror was ordered to pay costs estimated in excess of £1.5million. But Mr Justice Eady indicated that McKenna may have to pick up some of his own expenses if they are deemed to be unreasonable for the newspaper to cover.
Damages will be decided in October and are expected to be between £20,000 and £50,000.
The Mirror said: 'We are disappointed with today's judgment but given that the case has yet to conclude, it would not be appropriate to make any further comment at this stage.'