The Daily Mail has been forced to pay more than £100,000 in damages and apologise for a story linking a UK defence company with the use of chemical weapons in Syria.
The paper has agreed to pat £110,000 plus legal costs and carry an apology on its website after it had falsely suggested that Britam Defence and two of its directors had been willing to sell chemical weapons to rebels fighting President Assad.
The January 2013 story was based on internal emails sent between the directors – David Goulding and Philip Doughty – which emerged after the company’s computer system had been illegally hacked. The Mail has accepted that these emails were forgeries.
In a statement read out in court, a lawyer acting for the Mail said: “I confirm that the defendant offers its sincere apologies to the claimants for the damage and distress caused by the publication of these false allegations, which has appeared on US websites. The defendant acknowledges that the emails in question were completely fabricated and that there is no question of any of the claimants being involved – or even considering becoming involved – in the heinous actions to which the article referred. The defendant is pleased to set the record straight.”
Mail Online ran the following apology today:
An article on 29 January reported allegations on the internet that the US Government had backed a plot to launch a chemicals weapons attack in Syria and blame it on the Assad regime.
The reports made reference to an email said to have been from David Goulding, the Business Development Director of Britam Defence, to company founder, Philip Doughty. The email had been published on the internet after Britam’s computer system was illegally hacked in Singapore. It referred to a proposal that Britam would deliver chemical weapons to Syria for enormous financial reward and suggested that the directors were willing to consider the illegal proposal. We now accept that email was fabricated and acknowledge there is no truth in any suggestion that Britam or its directors were willing to consider taking part in such a plot, which may have led to an atrocity. We apologise to each of them and have agreed to pay substantial damages.”
Adam Tudor, a lawyer at Carter Ruck, acting for the company and its directors, said the story “would have been understood to suggest the claimants were willing, for enormous financial reward, to consider taking part in a nefarious and illegal plot of the kind describe, which would have led to the death, injury and maiming of countless civilians.”
He said the article caused damage to the defendants’ reputations as well as “considerable distress and embarrassment”.
The hacking of the company’s computer system is the subject of a criminal investigation.