A man falsely identified by the Daily Mail as the mastermind of a criminal gang behind a £53 million robbery has won an apology and damages in the High Court.
Martial Arts teacher Lee Banda, from Tonbridge, sued over a 27 June article headlined: ‘Gang behind £53 million raid told family: You will die.”
It was a report of the opening speech in the trial of man charged with robbing a Kent securitas depot.
The robbery involved the kidnapping of the wife of the Securitas manager and their young child in order to force the manager to reveal relevant security details.
It was illustrated with three photographs, one of which was captioned ‘The Mastermind: Lee Rusha was ‘central to the planning””.
Rusha is one of the eight defendants and is accused of being the mastermind of the robbery.
Unfortunately for the Daily Mail, the photograph used wase was not of Rusha but of the claimant, Banda.
His solicitor David Price said in court today: ‘The Claimant has absolutely no connection with or involvement in the robbery.
‘The confusion arose because the Claimant and Mr Rusha have both represented England in martial arts and share a similar first name. The photograph was originally supplied by a local newspaper to the Daily Mail and was subsequently misrecorded in the Daily Mail library by the picture desk.”
Price said that his client has received numerous enquiries from clients who have seen or heard of the article and wrongly believe that he is somehow involved in the alleged robbery.
Banda also claims that attendance at his regular classes had dropped dramatically and that he has had many new bookings cancelled since the article was published.
The Mail published an apology in the following day’s edition after the mistake was made, but according to Price: ‘The apology was of limited prominence compared with the original article and the damage caused by the article continues.”
According to Price, the Mail has made an ‘offer of amends’under the Defamation Act 1996. This means that in addition to the apology, the Mail has made a fair offer of compensation – which should secure it a discount on the final cost of settling the claim.
Price said: ‘In due course the Defendant will pay a substantial sum in damages to the Claimant either by agreement or by court assessment under the offer of amends procedure.”