The three businessmen found guilty of colluding in an illegal share-fixing operation during the Guinness takeover of Distillers in the 1980s have failed to persuade the European Court of Human Rights to order the British government to meet a legal expenses claim of £1.26m, even though they scored a victory in the case.

Instead, judges have ordered that Gerald Ronson, Jack Lyons and Anthony
Parnes share an award of £40,000. The court last year had found that the prosecution had broken the European Charter of Human Rights during their Crown Court trial in 1990.

But this judgment has not translated into a thumping costs settlement, which would have included the expenses incurred in earlier national proceedings.

British government lawyers had opposed a substantial settlement, claiming that at the European court, the applicants had "engaged in a series of detailed and complex arguments which were rejected and the overwhelming majority of the time and cost needed to deal with their applications was referable to these failed arguments."