National News press agency has admitted at London’s High Court that its coverage of an inquest into the death of a runaway jewel thief was inaccurate.
The admission came at the settlement of a libel action brought by Metropolitan police officer Gorbakhsh Singh.
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Mr Justice David Eady was told by Singh’s solicitor, Jeremy Clarke-Williams, that the report was based on a Westminster Coroner’s Court inquest into the death of Mischa Niering, a teenager who died while attempting to escape from police on a motor scooter following a robbery at Tiffany’s jewellers in Sloane Square in London.
Clarke-Williams said that Singh was one of the officers involved in the police operation and that he had given evidence at the inquest which was reported on the National News website.
He said: “Unfortunately, their article entitled ‘Police driver tells inquest how he ran down jewel thief’ published on the website from 23 March 2007 began with the sentence: ‘A police officer has told how he ran down and killed a teenage jewel thief in a 50mph chase through residential streets.’ It went on to name Singh as this officer.
“This serious and damaging allegation was untrue. PC Singh did not kill Mischa Niering.
“A post-mortem had concluded on 7 October 2005 that Niering was killed by the impact of his motor scooter with a stationary vehicle.
“It is also the case that PC Singh was not the officer driving the car which was tailing Mr Niering’s scooter during the police operation.”
The judge was told that National News now accepted that their account was “inaccurate and defamatory of PC Singh”, that they withdrew unreservedly any suggestion that Singh was responsible for the death of Mischa Niering and apologised.
Kevin Healy, solicitor for the agency told the court they apologised unreservedly to PC Singh for the distress and embarrassment which the article had caused him. The agency has agreed to publish an apology on its website and to pay Singh’s legal costs.