Misc

Libel!

My first job was suing the West Midlands Police for fitting up innocent people.

It is nice to see that, these days, the only thing they’re being sued for is defaming journalists:

Channel 4’s Dispatches editor Kevin Sutcliffe and the programme makers behind Undercover Mosque are pursuing a libel claim against West Midlands Police and the Crown Prosecution Service.

The documentary makers were cleared last November by media regulator Ofcom of allegations of misleadingly editing the Channel 4 programme about extreme Islamic preachers.

Undercover Mosque, which took nine months to make, aired in January last year and featured footage filmed undercover in several mosques in the Midlands.
The documentary featured footage of preachers calling for homosexuals to be killed, espousing male supremacy, condemning non-Muslims and predicting jihad.

Channel 4 announced today that Sutcliffe, and production company Hardcash Productions, have now initiated libel proceedings.

“The statements made by both the West Midlands Police and the CPS were completely unfounded and seriously damaging to the reputation of the programme makers,” the broadcaster said.

“We fully support this libel action as we feel that it is the only way to vindicate their reputations and to prove this was a responsible piece of public interest journalism. These unfounded allegations brought into question Channel 4’s standards of investigative journalism and a vindication for the programme team will be a vindication for Dispatches.”

The broadcaster also released a statement on behalf of co-claimants – David Henshaw, Andrew Smith and John Moratiel – from Hardcash Production: “The statements made by both the West Midlands Police and the CPS were completely unfounded and seriously damaging to our reputation. We feel the only way to set the record straight once and for all is to pursue this matter through a libel action.”

In August last year West Midlands police complained to regulator Ofcom about the editing of the Dispatches documentary.

But Ofcom said the programme was “a legitimate investigation uncovering matters of important public interest” in a subsequent ruling in November.

The regulator also said there was “No evidence that [Channel 4] had misled the audience” and “the broadcaster had accurately represented the material and dealt with the subject matter responsibly and in context”.

My guess is that the police will fight tooth and nail to avoid making public their decision-making process in relation to their conduct. They’ll resist disclosure as hard as they can, and then make a well judged payment in, in order to force Channel 4 to settle the action.

Channel 4 will need to be very canny to get the meat they want out of this libel action.

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