GARY FLOOD – and – TIMES NEWSPAPERS LTD
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE – QUEEN’S BENCH DIVISION
DECISION BY THE HONOURABLE MR JUSTICE TUGENDHAT
In the said matter, the Claimant ‘Gary Flood’ was a Detective Sergeant with the Metropolitan Police Service wherein he was charged with corrupt practices. The story was published by the Defendent newspaper ‘Times Newspapers Ltd.’ company on 2 June 2006 under the title:
“Detective accused of taking bribes from Russian exiles. Police investigating the alleged sale to a security company of intelligence on the Kremlin’s attempts to extradite opponents of President Putin, Michael Gillard reports”.
The same story was also made available by the defendents over its website and continued to publish it there. But the investigations into the allegations did not prove anything against the Claimant as follows:
“unable to find any evidence to show that [the Claimant] … has divulged any confidential information for monies or otherwise. Consequently there are no recommendations made as to criminal or discipline proceedings in relation to that matter”.
As a result, the claimant issued the Claim Form for libel both in respect of Printed as well as website publication:
“He claims that the words complained of meant that there were strong grounds to believe, or alternatively that there were reasonable grounds to suspect, that he had abused his position as a police officer with the MPS extradition unit by corruptly accepting £20,000 in bribes from some of Russia’s most wanted suspected criminals in return for selling to them highly confidential Home Office and police intelligence about attempts to extradite them to Russia to face criminal charges, that he had thereby committed an appalling breach of duty and betrayal of trust and had thereby committed a very serious criminal offence.”
The Defedent newspaper admitted that article was defamatory but claimed the defense of qualified privilege, which is generally available to journalists as a defense in circumstances where it is considered important that the facts be known in the public interest. A clear line was drawn between the article pulished in the newspaper and the one published over the Internet.
After September 2007, the defendent knew that there had been an investigation which had been completed, and the outcome of it. The status of the information had therefore changed for the worse. therefore, the defendent can no longer state that the website publication includes a fair representation of the Claimant’s case. And therefore, matter was decided in favour of the claimant in respect of online publication… as it was held that:
“The defence was true of the online publication, but only until the newspaper was informed of the outcome of the investigation. The failure to remove the article from the website, or to attach to the articles published on The Times website a suitable qualification, cannot possibly be described as responsible journalism. It is not in the public interest that there should continue to be recorded on the internet the questions as to [Flood’s] honesty which were raised in 2006, and it is not fair to him.”