The Torquay Herald Express has apologised and paid an undisclosed sum in damages and legal costs to an army sergeant wrongly identified as a murder suspect.
In a story headlined ‘Stabbed through the heart’published on 12 June, the paper reported the trial of soldier Gareth Thomas, of the Devonshire and Dorset Light Infantry, who was accused of murdering his uncle.
But the accompanying picture was of sergeant Gareth Thomas – a man with no connection to the case who only learned of the error after returning from service in Belize.
The paper contacted sergeant Thomas to alert him of the error and a ‘unilateral’apology was printed on page three of the Herald Express on 13 June. The paper made an unqualified offer of amends under section two of the Defamation Act 1996.
In a statement read out in court today, sergeant Thomas’s solicitors Dave Price said: ‘The Claimant has obtained permission to read this statement to the court in the hope that it may be reported that and reach people who have seen or heard of the offending article but are unaware of the apology. While the claimant may have preferred that this serious error had never been made, he accepts that he has achieved all he can by bringing these proceedings and feels suitably vindicated.”