TV presenter Dr Christian Jessen has been ordered to pay Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster £125,000 in damages for tweeting false allegations of an extra-marital affair.
The award for what the judge called "a most serious libel" and "grossly defamatory" is thought to be a UK record for defamation on Twitter.
Mr Justice McAlinden said he entirely accepted Mrs Foster‘s evidence that the "public trashing of the most precious relationship in her life by a prominent public figure gave her grave upset, distress, embarrassment and humiliation".
Baseless rumours about an affair between the DUP leader and one of her close protection officers began circulating in December 2019.
Dr Jessen, best known for presenting the Embarrassing Bodies TV programme, tweeted the false allegation to his 300,000 followers, describing Mrs Foster as "the sanctity of marriage preaching woman".
When her lawyer replied advising him to remove "the totally false allegation", he replied "LOL" and did not delete it for another two weeks.
Mrs Foster, who has been married to her husband Brian for 25 years, told the court how she had to discuss the issue with her children two days before Christmas.
She added that she believed the publication of the "baseless claims" was deliberately timed to undermine her during critical negotiations on the restoration of devolved government in Northern Ireland.
Dr Jessen claimed he was unaware the legal proceedings had reached such an advanced stage because he was suffering from mental ill health and had gone to live with his parents.
But the judge said there was "no medical evidence of any nature to substantiate that" and that he found claims the doctor had not received legal documents to be "wholly unsatisfactory and unconvincing".
He added: "To state that a woman married for 25-and-a-half years and a mother of three children, who is a committed Christian and who is recognised as such, and who has publicly made statement extolling the sanctity of marriage… as an adulterer, a hypocrite and a homophobe is a most serious libel".
He awarded the outgoing DUP leader £125,000 in damages and ordered Dr Jessen to pay her legal costs.
Speaking outside court, Mrs Foster’s lawyer, Paul Tweed, said: "Dr Jessen has been offered every opportunity to do the right thing from the outset but he has failed to do so.
"My client is grateful to the court for this total vindication which hopefully will act as a watershed for all women in public life who have been subjected to similar attacks on social media."