Daily Mail wins permission to appeal in five-year libel battle over Met Police cronyism claims

The Daily Mail has won permission to appeal in a five-year legal battle with a management consultant which it said had won contracts with the Met Police through cronyism.

Mrs Justice Sharp awarded damages of £65,000 to Andrew Miller in December last year. He is the co-founder and erstwhile managing director of Impact Plus Ltd, which specialised in IT-related projects

The front-page story appeared in the Mail and on its website on 2 October, 2008.

Mr Justice Tugendhat had ruled in 2011, as a preliminary issue, that the article meant that there were, at the date of publication, reasonable grounds to suspect that Miller was a willing beneficiary of improper conduct and cronyism because of his friendship with former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair in respect of the award of a number of Metropolitan Police Service contracts, worth millions of pounds of public money, to his firm.

Associated Newspapers had denied libel, contending the article was substantially true or that the action was an abuse of process.

Mrs Justice Sharp awarded Mr Miller the damages on 21 December, following a five-day trial in May.

Associated Newspapers, she said, had failed in its justification defence because it was unable to establish that there were reasonable grounds at the date of publication to suspect that Mr Miller was a willing beneficiary of improper conduct and cronyism because of his friendship with Sir Ian Blair in respect of the award of a number of Metropolitan Police contracts worth millions of pounds to his company, meaning that the defence of justification had failed.

She also criticised Associated Newspapers for having called no witnesses, but instead having relied on "highly selective extracts" from documents which amounted to "multiple hearsay".

Miller's company won work from the Metropolitan Police "because it was the better candidate and won the tender on the merits", Mrs Justice Sharp said, adding: "The evidence is that Impact Plus was appropriately paid for the work it did, and that it did a good and valuable job."

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