Times takes police libel fight to Supreme Court

Times Newspapers has lodged a petition with the Supreme Court seeking permission to appeal against the Court of Appeal's decision in a defamation battle between police officer Gary Flood and The Times over the use of the Reynolds Defence of responsible journalism.

The Court of Appeal overturned an original finding by Justice Tugendhat that a story which reported that Detective Sergeant Flood was the subject of an investigation into possible corruption was protected by the Reynolds Defence.

Flood sued The Times over the article, which appeared in the newspaper, then online, on 2 June, 2006, under the headline: "Detective accused of taking bribes from Russian exiles".

It reported that Scotland Yard was investigating allegations that ISC, a British security company with wealthy Russian clients, had paid a police officer in the extradition unit for sensitive information, and named Flood as the officer who was under investigation.

The Court of Appeal held that story could not be protected by the Reynolds Defence because it contained information which was extremely damaging to Flood's reputation, and because the journalists had failed to verify the allegations it contained.

The newspaper argues in the grounds of appeal in its petition to the Supreme Court, which was filed yesterday, that the Court of Appeal made seven "fundamental errors", including failing to accept that it was bound by two of its own previous decisions not to interfere with a judge's assessment of the balance between the parties' competing rights under the European Convention of Human Rights.

It says: "Moreover, if reports on matters of public interest are to be confined in the way that the Court of Appeal's judgments suggest, there is a real danger that journalistic investigation of possible wrongdoing, particularly by those in authority, will not be undertaken because of the obvious likelihood that it its products will not be published."

The petition states: "The level of verification that the journalists in fact achieved exceeded that which, as a matter of law, was required of them."

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