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Mail ordered to pay £45,000 in libel damages for 'foreign doctor' slur against GP

In Garcia v Associated Newspapers Ltd [2014] EWHC 3137 (QB) Mr Justice Dingemans awarded damages of £45,000 to a Spanish doctor who was libelled by the Daily Mail.

The Claimant, Dr Jose Antonio Serrano Garcia, brought proceedings in the High Court after he was the subject of an article published in the Daily Mail on 21 April 2012.  The Claimant, a general practitioner, was accused by the Mail of wrongly and inappropriately reporting his former patient, Mr Kevin Jones, to the DVLA after Mr Jones gave an account of excessive drinking during a consultation in January 2011.  Mr Jones disputed that he had made such a statement to his GP and said that he had been misunderstood.

The Daily Mail article entitled “A whole year of hell, thanks to a foreign doctor” accused the Claimant of failing to understand Mr Jones which led him to reporting Mr Jones to the DVLA with no evidence to support his assertion that Mr Jones abused alcohol.  Mr Jones, a bus driver, had his licence revoked by the DVLA for one year as a result of the report by the Claimant.

Associated Newspapers Ltd, the Defendant and parent company of the Daily Mail, defended the article at trial relying on the defence of honest comment and justification.  Mr Justice Dingemans did not accept that those defences could be properly relied on and found in favour of the Claimant.

The Claimant asked for aggravated damages to compensate him for the fact that the Defendant had pursued the defence of justification and for the way that the defence had been conducted.  Mr Justice Dingemans refused to award aggravated damages on this basis saying:

“In my judgment the proper defence of an action is not to be taken into account in aggravation of damages in libel proceedings.  Any other approach would be an impermissible interference with the vital right of the press to defend itself and would therefore be wrong.”

The Claimant was awarded damages in the sum of £45,000 for the libel.  No injunction was granted.

A full copy of the judgment can be accessed here.


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