MoD police chairman wins £45k libel damages

The national chairman of the staff association of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) Police has been awarded £45,000 in libel damages over false allegations about him which appeared on a website.

Eamon Keating, 40, from Selsey, West Sussex, sued the operator of MODPOL – which describes itself as the force’s “unofficial site” – over postings which he said seriously injured his professional and personal reputation and caused him “great distress and embarrassment”.

Deputy High Court Judge Richard Parkes QC set the damages award yesterday, and ordered the defendant, former MoD Police officer Roy Large, to pay £35,000 on account of costs within 28 days.

Large’s defence to Keating’s libel case was struck out in January this year, and judgment was entered for Keating the following month.

Keating had sued Large, of Gnosall, Staffordshire, over allegations relating to the granting of legal assistance to Mr Keating’s partner which appeared on the MODPOL website between August 2006 and January last year.

Keating said it was falsely alleged that he had personally granted his partner Defence Police Federation (DPF) legal assistance to pursue a “spurious and unfounded employment tribunal claim without referring the matter to the national executive committee”.

It was further alleged that he acted unfairly in denying or procuring the denial of legal assistance to the other party in the dispute and that he had “conspired with his partner to give her an unfair advantage”.

His counsel, Aidan Eardley, told the judge that Mr Keating had recognised the potential conflict of interest and was “careful to ensure that he had nothing to do with the application for, consideration of, or grant of DPF legal assistance to either officer”.

He went on: “The allegations are extremely serious. They allege that Mr Keating has abused his position, and the trust placed in him by DPF members, in order to favour his partner over another DPF member, in blatant disregard for the very protocol which he himself set up.

“The allegations therefore go to the heart of his personal and professional reputation. Short of charges of financial impropriety it is hard to imagine a more direct attack on his integrity.”

The court heard that the DPF represents about 3,000 of the 3,500 men and women who provide a specialist policing service to the MoD, offering members, among other things, legal advice and help on employment and disciplinary matters.

Large was not in court for yesterday’s hearing.

The judge said £45,000 was the “proper award” for what he described as “serious” allegations.

He also granted an injunction banning further publication of the allegations.

Keating, who has been chairman of the DPF since 2004, said after the hearing: “It is a relief to have these false allegations finally put to rest.”

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