Barry George wins libel damages from NoW and the Sun

Barry George, the man cleared of murdering TV presenter Jill Dando, accepted substantial undisclosed libel damages today from News Group over claims he was a stalker and could also have been a murderer.

George’s counsel, Gordon Bishop, told the High Court his client had brought the action over a number of articles published in The Sun and the News of the World between August and November last year.

Bishop said publisher News Group had now withdrawn the “false allegations”, apologised and agreed to pay George substantial damages and legal costs.

On 2 August, 2008, The Sun published details about George and the retrial that led to his 2001 conviction for Dando’s murder being quashed.

The articles described a number of matters that had been kept from the jury during the retrial. The court was told that News Group now recognised that those articles would have been understood to mean that there were grounds to suspect George of the murder, despite his acquittal.

Bishop said: “The defendant accepts that the verdict of the second jury in acquitting Mr George was correct and it apologises to Mr George for any suggestion otherwise.”

The day after publication of the article in The Sun, the News of the World carried a report of interviews given by George, in which he stated that at the time of the murder he was in a disability centre.

Bishop said: “He also said that an hour later he was in conversation with a woman in the street who became a prosecution witness.

“Although he accepted he was paying possibly unwanted attention to her, she never expressed that to him.

“The headline for the article was ‘I didn’t kill Jill Dando… I was stalking someone else at the time’. The defendant accepts that Mr George never made that statement.”

Bishop said various other allegations then appeared in both newspapers in October 2008.

These included that George had become obsessed with Sky News presenter Kay Burley, that he pestered a woman whose advert about a dog he had answered, and that he became obsessed with Pam Wright, fiancée of Steve Wright, the Suffolk Strangler.

Bishop said: “The defendant now accepts that, although on one occasion Mr George did cycle to Sky TV studios to try to collect a tape of his interview with Kay Burley, Mr George did not pose a threat and was not obsessed with her, nor did he pester any woman who had a dog for sale, nor did he become obsessed with Pam Wright.”

News Group’s solicitor Ben Beabey said: “The defendant takes this opportunity to correct matters and to apologise to Mr George for any hurt and distress he has felt.”

George was at the High Court with his sister Michelle Diskin, who led the campaign to prove his innocence after his 2001 murder conviction, for the brief hearing before Justice Eady.

George said afterwards: “I am pleased that the matter between myself and News Group Newspapers has been amicably settled following a successful mediation without the need for litigation.”

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