Dr Daniel Poulter, Conservative Member of Parliament for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, hospital doctor and former Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Department of Health has settled his claims for libel, misuse of private information and breach of confidence against the Times Newspapers Limited.
In a Statement read before Mr Justice Nicol on 25 February 2019 Times Newspapers apologised to Dr Poulter for two articles published in November 2017 in print and online making allegations of sexual assault by Dr Poulter of three female MPs, which the newspaper accepted were false and should not have been published.
One of the articles was by Andrew Bridgen MP in which he claimed to have been the recipient of such complaints and to have reported the same to the whips’ office in 2010. Mr Bridgen claimed that, as his complaint to the whips had met with no interest, he was now submitting his complaint to the Conservative Party’s new regulatory body, which had recently been set up to investigate such complaints. The second article was by Caroline Wheeler, Deputy Political Editor of The Sunday Times, reporting upon Mr Bridgen’s allegations and his complaint to the Conservative Party.
In March 2018, the Conservative Party Panel dismissed Mr Bridgen’s complaint against Dr Poulter, noting that the Investigating Officer had established that no such female MP was making any such complaint against Dr Poulter. The Panel concluded that there was no reliable evidence to support Mr Bridgen’s complaint.
On 14 December 2018, Nicklin J ruled that Mr Bridgen’s article imputed to Dr Poulter that he was guilty of sexual assault, rejecting the contention of Times Newspapers that their article bore a lower meaning of ‘grounds to investigate’ whether he had sexually harassed or assaulted women in Parliament.
As well as apologising to Dr Poulter and acknowledging the falsity of the allegations, Times Newspapers has agreed to pay substantial damages to Dr Poulter and his legal costs.
A full 5RB case report on the earlier hearing on meaning can be found here.
The Statement in Open Court, as read, can be found here.