Nato chief loses second Sunday Herald libel bid

Former Nato Secretary-General Lord Robertson has had a second attempt to sue the Sunday Herald rejected.

The
former Labour MP and defence secretary had settled an earlier claim for
£200,000 damages by accepting an out-of-court settlement for £25,000
plus legal expenses and an apology from the Sunday Herald, over an
allegation it carried on its website in 2003 that wrongly referred to
him in connection with the Dunblane school massacre.

The
allegation had been posted anonymously on the paper's now defunct
online readers' forum in response to an article relating to the
Dunblane massacre.

However, when the Sunday Herald
published details of the settlement on its media page in September,
2004, Lord Robertson claimed it repeated the defamatory allegation and
had also portrayed him as an irrational bullying individual who raised
spurious proceedings.

In his judgment at the Court of Session
in Edinburgh, Lord Reed said: "My conclusion is that the Sunday Herald
article, read as a whole, cannot be understood by any reasonable reader
as making, repeating, circulating or giving currency to the allegation.

"The
whole tenor of the article is that the allegation against the pursuer
was untrue; and the article cannot reasonably be understood as adopting
or repeating that allegation."
He added: "I am satisfied that no
reasonable person reading the article in question would conclude that
the pursuer was (or was portrayed as being) irrational, bullying or
hypocritical, or given to raising spurious legal proceedings.

"The
newspaper's solicitor is quoted as stating that the paper understood
why the pursuer was upset. There is no suggestion that it was
irrational of the pursuer to bring
proceedings: on the contrary, the
report that he received £25,000 in settlement of the action implies
that his decision to bring proceedings was vindicated."

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