Zealot 'bankrupt' by Springer case

Woes of Christian Voice founder

Christian zealot Stephen Green is facing bankruptcy over his failed bid to bring a blasphemy case against Jerry Springer The Opera.

The head of lobby group Christian Voice had been ordered to pay £90,000 in costs after losing his long-running battle against the show and its screening on BBC Two.

Now he wants licence-fee payers to cover his bill, saying it would be a better way of spending viewers’ money than funding BBC Three and Four.

The BBC's solicitors, who acted for director-general Mark Thompson, were awarded £55,000 in cost and Olswangs Solicitors, who acted for Jon Thoday, of producers Avalon, were awarded £35,000.

The High Court ruled last December that Green could not prosecute the pair over the show, written by Stewart Lee and Richard Thomas.

The money was due yesterday, but Green says he doesn't have it – and will have to go bankrupt if forced to pay up. He has written to both Thompson and Thoday inviting them to waive their costs ‘in the interests of goodwill and justice’.

He said: ‘Thoday can easily afford to waive his costs as well. He lost £500,000 over the failed tour of Jerry Springer The Opera in 2006, and didn't bat an eyelid, so he isn't exactly short of money either.’

However, the main reason the tour lost money was Green threatening to picket and prosecute any theatre that staged it. He has gloated: ‘Our campaign against the theatre tour of Jerry Springer the Opera was highly successful, by the grace of God. The producers and theatres lost a fortune and Stewart Lee himself said it was ruined.’

As he pleaded for ‘goodwill’ yesterday, Green said: ‘It should be enough for Mark Thompson and Jonathan Thoday that they got away with blasphemy, at least in this life. For these rich, powerful men to pursue me into the bankruptcy courts over money I don't have would be vindictive.'

He also said the BBC was ‘wasting’ £150million on BBC Three and BBC4 Four as well as the recent £550,000 rebranding of BBC News.

‘Mark Thompson earns well over 20 times as much in a year as I am worth. He could pay his own costs out of his inflated salary, and the BBC certainly would never notice the odd £55,000 alongside the money they squander on a daily basis.

'Quite simply, I do not have the money, and will be certainly end up bankrupt if Thompson and Thoday decide to enforce these punitive costs.'

A BBC spokesman said: ‘While we will look at this request, it is important to remember it was Mr Green who chose to seek to bring a private prosecution for a criminal offence.

‘We always believed the case had no merit and should never have been brought but clearly had no choice but to defend against it.  It is regrettable that the BBC was forced to spend considerable public money doing so.’

An online petition set up by Christian Voice has attracted 944 signatures – but several are duplicates, and many more actually used the form to register their disapproval of Green’s plea.

One said: ‘I don't understand. It was God's will when you brought the action. It was God's will when you denied cancer sufferers much needed money. It was God's will when your organisation issued death threats against comedians. Is it not also God's will that you be bankrupted then? Or does His will only apply when it's to your own benefit Mr Green?’

A counter-petition saying Green should pay his own costs has received 143 signatures,

Published: 2 Jul 2008

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