Libel judge slams Guardian

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A British Army officer has been awarded £58,500 libel damages by a
High Court judge in London over allegations in The Guardian linking him
to the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad.
 
At the same time the judge rounded on the
approach of the Guardian for its “remarkably casual” approach towards
apologising. Mr Justice Eady, one of the country’s senior libel judges,
accused the Guardian among other things of : being remarkably casual in
its approach; slow to respond after it accepted it was wrong; making an
inappropriate response; and adopting a dismissive attitude.
 
The allegations at the centre of the case
appeared in a Guardian story on 16 September last year headed “UK
officers linked to torture jail.” The judge ruled that the Guardian
Media Group must pay the damages in respect of the story which Col
Jonathan Campbell-James claimed was false and damaging to his
reputation.
 
The judge said that the paper said two officers,
Col Campbell-James was one of them, had been “embedded within the US
unit responsible for extracting information from Iraqi prisoners”. This
implicated Col Campbell-James in the activities at Abu Ghraib where
prisoners were known to have been systematically abused, tortured and
humiliated by American soldiers.
 
Ultimately the Guardian made an “offer of amends”
over what had been published and on 12 December, three months after the
publication published an apology, said the judge, who had been called
in to decide on the appropriate level of damages. Rounding on the
Guardian for the time it took to apologise the judge said : “This was
plainly a case for an immediate and generous acknowledgement of error
and for putting matters right, as far as was then in their power, as
soon as possible.”

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