Judge throws out rehab unit boss's libel case against HTV

Garrett: ‘victory for investigative journalism’

A libel action against HTV West has been thrown out five and a half years after the broadcaster was sued by the owner of a Bristol-based drug and alcohol rehabilitation unit.

The action followed an HTV West documentary in 1998 which investigated the death of a young addict left in the unit’s care. After three appearances before judges, HTV West persuaded the High Court to throw out the case, brought by the owner of the rehab unit, Lisa Maggs.

In addition, HTV has formally alleged to police that Maggs committed forgery and attempted to pervert the course of justice.

In granting HTV’s application to strike out the case, High Court judge Master Whitaker ruled he was “persuaded that the delay in this case, together with the failure to bring it to trial on three occasions which the court has offered, must have led to a serious risk that there cannot be a fair trial”. He refused to let Maggs appeal.

The documentary was made by James Garrett, then head of current affairs and now head of features and current affairs at HTV West. He investigated the death of a young addict after leaving one of two rehab units run by Maggs’ company. The unit was sold as North Somerset Council, the authority responsible for licensing, sought to have it closed down.

Garrett said he was relieved the case was finally over and the verdict was a victory for investigative journalism. “I was confident that a jury would have found in our favour had the case ever got to court. However, Ms Maggs clearly had no wish to explain her business practices to a jury and face cross-examination.”

By Wale Azeez

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