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Sunday, 28 July 2013

Morris v Times Newspapers Limited


The case of Morris v TNL was a libel action brought in England by someone I used to date and was settled by the Sunday Times out of court last year. It regarded several articles, one of which incorrectly stated I had obtained a restraining order against Mr George O H "Owen" Morris. He was not identified by name in those articles. I also never claimed to have obtained a restraining order against him; the errors were a result of subedits made by the Sunday Times and did not come from me.

On Monday there will be a Statement In Open Court about the apology printed by the Times in February 2012. The Statement In Open Court, agreed in November 2012, is to inform anyone who was not previously aware of the Sunday Times's apology to Mr Morris that it exists some 17 months after it was printed.

(Update: according to the website, the SIOC was read before Mr Justice Tugendhat at half 10. It is uploaded here.) 

I would urge anyone thinking of reporting on this story to consider the wording of the Statement very carefully, as it clearly avoids placing blame on me over content the Times have long since accepted responsibility for.

It is my opinion that any media outlet reporting on the outcome of Morris v TNL who prints that I 'lied' or implies similar is printing a libel against me, and I will take this very seriously.

Unfortunately the Mail have gone ahead and published such a statement. I fought a long time to make sure even though the case was settled (an outcome very much against my preference) that the apology and the SIOC did not libel me by claiming things I was not responsible for.

Last year I made a PCC complaint against the Herald in Scotland for printing something similar; they apologised privately and altered the article online to reflect the correct events. Given that this was a matter of PCC record it is appalling the Mail have decided to brand me a liar - and as appalling the number of 'journalists' who have taken their claims at face value seemingly without familiarising themselves either with the case or the Statement.

In the past I have been a vocal supporter of libel reform and continue to be so. However I feel there is no choice but to defend myself vigorously against these falsehoods. Rest assured the irony is not lost on me.

Obviously I will consider all reasonable and legal responses to the Mail.

Mr George O H Morris is also bringing a defamation suit against me in Scottish court (as we both reside in Scotland) based on the same Times articles. He has demanded a settlement of £700,000 which I simply do not have. I have no choice but to defend this, but am happy to do so even though it will almost certainly mean losing everything I have even when I win. The cost of defending these kinds of cases is very, very high.

For those who are unfamiliar with Scottish defamation law, it is possible to bring claims up to 3 years after a supposed defamation is made. Mr Morris was able to begin this suit well after his case against the Times wrapped up.

It goes without saying that the last several years of dealing with these ongoing claims have taken their toll. I have suffered physically from the stress of defending myself against the actions of someone who, many years after we split, seems not to have moved on.

I look forward to the opportunity to rebut all claims Mr Morris will be making against me in court.

Update: it has come to my attention that the Guardian and the Mail have printed pieces with contributions by Laura Topham. This is the same Laura Topham who attempted to out me, thus prompting me to go to the Times in 2009. Emails between herself and Mr Morris were submitted as evidence in the Morris v TNL case, and will be in the upcoming Scottish case as well. It seems to me a bit - shall we say, borderline unethical? - that she continues to "report" on this story without declaring her interest in it.