The creator the television show Dragons’ Den has claimed £70,000 in damages after news reports wrongly alleged he was guilty of downloading child pornography.
A report filed by the Press Association inaccurately identified a defendant at Southwark Crown Court accused of downloading “quite unspeakable” child porn images as Martyn Smith, creator of the BBC2 entertainment programme.
The Press Association apologised to Smith, a Bafta-nominated TV director, producer and writer, and agreed to pay him substantial damages this morning at the High Court in London for the blunder.
The actual defendant involved in the Southwark case was a different Martyn Smith, who had worked as a BBC producer but had no “professional or personal relationship” with his namesake, the court was told.
Mark Thomson of law firm Atkins Thomson, acting for Smith, told the court that PA had agreed to pay legal costs and £50,000 in damages to add to £20,000 his client had already collected from other news organisations.
The Daily Mirror paid damages of £10,000 after carrying the story in its Northern Ireland edition, while the The Times, which published the story to a news database, and the Daily Telegraph, which published it online, each paid £5,000.
The Press Association distributed a story to all major UK news publishers in the early evening on 21 December headed ‘Dragons’ Den creator escapes child porn jail term”, claiming that Smith had pleaded guilty to downloading child porn.
The report was then widely published, including on the Daily Mail website, the Brighton Argus, the Scotsman and the Belfast Telegraph before the mistake was detected and the Press Association notified later in the evening.
The Press Association issued a corrected story then put out an apology the next day on its wire service. All news groups then withdrew the defamatory allegations and apologised to Smith.