Blunders : Times failure to remove police corruption story from site for two years costs it £60k damages plus costs, Appeal Court rules
The Court of Appeal has rejected a bid by The Times to overturn an award of £60,000 in damages given to a police officer it said was investigated over corruption.
The case concerned an article which appeared in The Times, and online, in June 2006, and reported that Gary Flood, at that time a Detective Sergeant with the Metropolitan Police Extradition Squad, was being investigated following allegations of bribery.
Flood was exonerated by a police investigation report which was made available to the parties on 4 September, 2007. But the newspaper's article remained online for a further two years.
The Times pleaded justification (that the article was true) and Reynolds privilege (responsible journalism on a matter of public interest).
In 2013 High Court judge Mr Justice Tugendhat held that the Reynolds defence succeeded in respect of the print and the online publications up to 5 September 2007 - the date on which the newspaper was told that the investigation into the allegations had exonerated Flood - but failed in respect of online publications made after that date.
In October 2013, Times Newspapers Ltd withdrew its justification defence and admitted liability.
At the assessment of damages hearing, Mrs Justice Nicola Davies ordered The Times to pay £60,000 in damages plus Flood's costs.
She rejected the publisher's argument that Flood should pay its costs over the Reynolds issue, save for any costs incurred in relation to the publications after 5 September, 2007.
Times Newspaper Ltd argued that the judge's decision was wrong, that it had won a substantial victory at the Reynolds hearing, and that the judge had not properly balanced the factors relevant to the costs decision.
The judge ruled that the newspaper had made a serious allegation against Flood and continued to publish it for more than two years after learning of his exoneration. Flood had sued to clear his name, and succeeded in doing so.
Although the decision on Reynolds privilege meant that the number of actionable publications was relatively small, it was artificial to suggest that the issue of vindication was somehow divisible.
According to the judgment the article was accessed around 500 times by readers in the UK in the two-year period between Flood being exonerated and the piece being taken down.
Correspondence between the two parties showed that by October 2008 Times Newspapers Ltd was still unwilling to accept that Mr Flood had been exonerated and was unwilling to give him any form of vindication.
The judge took the view that this demonstrated an intransigent approach.