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Mom loses ‘Ugly’ memoir libel suit

London's High Court ruled against a woman who claimed that her daughter falsified stories of childhood cruelty and neglect in her book.
/ Source: Reuters

The mother of a British barrister whose book "Ugly" accused her of childhood cruelty and neglect lost her libel case at London's High Court on Monday.

The jury's unanimous verdict came after more than a day of deliberation, the Press Association reported.

Carmen Briscoe-Mitchell said that the allegations in "Ugly" by her daughter Constance Briscoe were a "piece of fiction" and that they had enjoyed a loving relationship in a happy family.

But during a 10-day hearing, Briscoe told the court how her mother repeatedly beat her with a stick for bed-wetting, called her a "dirty little whore" and drove her to attempt suicide by drinking bleach.

She also said she had plastic surgery to remove the "ugliness" with which her mother taunted her.

The court battle was the latest example of so-called "misery memoirs," now a popular publishing genre, being challenged.

"Love and Consequences," a critically acclaimed memoir about a mixed-raced girl growing up in a gang-ridden neighborhood of Los Angeles, was revealed to be a fabrication and the 19,000 distributed copies of the book were recalled earlier this year.

In 2006, U.S. author James Frey admitted he had fabricated key parts of his drug and alcohol memoir "A Million Little Pieces," which was the top selling non-fiction book in the United States in 2005.

In February, Misha Defonseca admitted that most of her bestselling autobiography, which told how a young Jewish girl was saved by wolves while hiding from the Nazis in wartime Europe, was made up.

After Monday's verdict, Briscoe burst into tears.

"It is sad that my mother still feels the need to pursue me," she said outside the court.

"Now I just want to get on with my career ... I can quite understand why my family went into collective denial but whilst child abuse may be committed behind closed doors it should never be swept under the carpet."

Briscoe-Mitchell had sued her daughter and publishers Hodder & Stoughton Ltd, who brought out her memoir in January 2006.

Briscoe-Mitchell's lawyer told the court that Briscoe had not complained to police, social services or police about her treatment and was "spinning a yarn."