Army officer set to see Mirror in court

Senior army officer Andrew Ritchie has launched a legal battle for libel damages of £100,000 over a story in the Daily Mirror.

Major General Ritchie, who retired last July, claims a story headed "Quitting: Ritchie" and "Fall Out! Exclusive: Sandhurst chief quits job after stress of looking after Princes" was defamatory.

The story claimed he had left his role as head of Sandhurst and taken early retirement from the army because he could not cope with the stress of looking after the safety and welfare of Princes William and Harry, he says.

Other newspapers repeated the untrue allegations after the original publication in the Daily Mirror, according to a writ issued in London's High Court.

Major General Ritchie says the stories gravely damaged his professional reputation, and caused him hurt, distress and embarrassment.

He is also seeking aggravated damages, saying the Ministry of Defence press office told the Mirror three times that the allegations were untrue and without foundation, and provided a statement saying why he had decided to leave the army. Despite this, the Mirror published the allegations without referring to his denials, or the content of the statement provided, the writ says.

After the original story appeared on April 17 last year, an MoD press officer sent an email to a Mirror reporter warning that the first article contained serious inaccuracies, that it should be treated as if it had legal tabs on it, and asking that anyone planning to run a story should speak to him first, the court will hear.

But despite this and other warnings, the Mirror published a reader's letter on April 19 without contacting him and without checking the facts, the writ claims.

The story continued to appear on the paper's website for some days despite the warnings and a letter from Lieutenant General FR Viggers, and was not removed until a day after a solicitor's letter was sent, the writ says.

Major General Ritchie says that no apology was published until April 29, that the apology was then not in agreed terms, was small and tucked away on page 2.

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