CA rules that articles not covered by Reynolds privilege or Fair Comment
The Daily Telegraph has lost its appeal against the award of £150,000 libel damages to George Galloway MP by the High Court in December 2004.
Mr Galloway had successfully sued over articles in the newspaper, published in April 2003, which had revealed the contents of certain documents in the Iraqi Foreign Ministry. The newspaper had published the documents, which purported to show that Mr Galloway had received over US$300,000 from the former Iraqi regime, over a number of days together with strong comment on what the newspaper believed the documents showed.
The Court of Appeal held that the original trial judge, Mr Justice Eady, had been correct to conclude that the Telegraph coverage had in effect adopted and embellished the allegations contained in the Iraqi documents and that the newspaper was not entitled to Reynolds protection. The Court also held that the articles made allegations of fact against Mr Galloway which could not be defended as fair comment.
Giving the judgment of the Court, the Master of the Rolls, Sir Anthony Clarke said:
“It appears to us that the newspaper was not merely reporting what the Baghdad documents said but that, as the judge held, it both adopted and embellished them. It was alleging that Mr Galloway took money from the Iraqi oil-for-food programme for personal gain. That was not a mere repeat of the documents, which in our view did not, or did not clearly, make such an allegation. We agree with the judge that, although there were some references to allegations, the thrust of the coverage was that The Daily Telegraph was saying that Mr Galloway took money to line his own pockets. In all the circumstances we answer the question whether the newspaper adopted and embellished the statements in the Baghdad documents in the affirmative.”
Mr Galloway – who has always denied the allegations that he had taken any money from the former Iraqi regime – was elected as MP for Bow in the General Election in May 2005. He was not present in Court for the judgment as he is presently appearing as a contestant on Channel Four’s Celebrity Big Brother.
The Court refused the Telegraph permission to take the case to the House of Lords and ordered the newspaper to pay £260,000 on account of the costs of the trial and appeal. The order for costs and damages was stayed pending the newspaper’s application for permission to appeal to the House of Lords. The petition to appeal must be lodged within 1 month.
Click here for a copy of the 5RB case report and judgment.