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Saturday 15 November 2014

Mail Loses Another Libel Battle

In Flat Earth News, Nick Davies said of the Daily Mail’s attitude to complaints “facts are swept aside or distorted; the story is published; the subject of the story then complains and is confronted by the wealth and cleverness of the Mail which will fight them right up to the point of final defeat ... And then the pattern repeats ... because the penalty is no match for the rewards of the behaviour that is being penalised”.
What's wrong with f***ing publishing whatever we like, c***?!? Er, with the greatest of respect, Mr Jay

The legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre gets away with it because even the largest libel awards are mere petty cash for his paper. Or rather, most of them are: the Vagina Monologue and his obedient hackery discovered recently that their campaign in defence of a libel action by businessman Andy Miller had developed not necessarily to their advantage. They lost this one.

And not only did they lose, but the paper also landed itself with a legal bill estimated at around £3 million. How could that happen? Simples. Miller, a friend of former Met Commissioner Ian Blair, took exception to the Mail’sMet Boss in new ‘Cash for friend’ storm” story, which was “accusing Miller of winning a lucrative IT contract with the Met unfairly through his friendship with Blair”.

Miller did not immediately go to law: he wrote to Dacre, telling him where the Mail had gone wrong, asking for an apology, and reimbursement of his costs, which were estimated at between £30,000 and £40,000. Whatever Dacre’s reply, this did not satisfy Miller, who launched Libel proceedings. He won the case and was awarded aggravated damages. Still the Mail fought on.

But now Associated Newspapers, the Mail’s parent company, has lost its bid to appeal to the Supreme Court. Miller was unimpressed: “How could it possibly be that a newspaper which cares about truth and accuracy is happy to go through this legal process after I wrote saying ‘you’re wrong’ to Paul Dacre. We’re nearly two years on after Leveson, for goodness sake what has changed?

He might well ask that. Despite much of the press – with the Mail in the vanguard – peddling the myth that the Leveson Inquiry has bequeathed some kind of “chilling effect” to the Fourth Estate, the reality is that nothing has changed. Miller is about to get confirmation of that: “Miller is pressing the Mail further for a prominent apology and considering taking the matter up with new press regulator Ipso”.

IPSO will merely wave him away with the excuse that it doesn’t have authority prior to last September. And its predecessor the PCC no longer exists. He wants a more prominent apology, it’s a case of “sue us again if you think you’re hard enough”. It is not the business of the Mail to worry about those whose reputations it trashes in pursuit of Dacre’s “conversation” with his readers, and so it does not.

£3 million? Small beer to the Mail. They’ll keep on libelling. Because they can.


AndyC said...

You quote Miller as saying “How could it possibly be that a newspaper which cares about truth and accuracy...."

This was the Mail he was talking about? Surely some mistake (ed).

Andrew Barker said...

The original, lame, apology appeared on page 41. The original story was a front page lead. I wish Dacre would have to pay the costs out of his own fat pocket. In most businesses the price for a failure of judgement on this scale would be the sack. But in the world of Associated Newspapers it will be water off his back.