People in libel payout over Dale Farm slavery slur

A Dale Farm resident accepted substantial libel damages today over an article in The People claiming she was to be investigated over allegations of slavery.

Grandmother Kathleen McCarthy, who has been a central figure in the campaign over the site, made the libel claim after the story appeared in the Sunday tabloid last month.

Her advocate, Martin Soames, told Mr Justice Eady at London’s High Court that publishers Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) had acknowledged its error in publishing the story.

The article had claimed that the 48-year-old widow was to be investigated over slavery allegations within the Irish traveller community at Toddbury Farm, Bedfordshire, and would be interviewed by the police over allegations of forced labour.

“In fact the allegations are untrue. Our client has no previous convictions nor has she been contacted by Luton and Bedfordshire Police or any other police force in relation to forced labour, under the Slavery and Servitude Act 2010 or indeed any offence at all.

“Luton and Bedfordshire Constabulary have confirmed that our client is not under investigation, and that they do not have any intention of interviewing her in relation to any such investigation.”

Soames said the newspaper had agreed to pay McCarthy substantial compensation and her reasonable legal costs.

MGN advocate Harry Kinmonth said it regretted publishing the article and apologised for the damage and distress caused.

McCarthy was not in court but said in a statement that she was “happy with this positive result during a very difficult time”.

“After a long fight to remain at Dale Farm my family, my community and I are picking up the pieces and trying to rebuild our lives,’she added.

“The experience has been traumatic, draining and stressful.

“I do not feel ready to return to the Royal Courts of Justice – a place that I spent a large amount of time defending the right to remain on land owned by my community.

“I would like to thank my legal team for defending me against damagingly false and hurtful statements against me and my community at a time when we were at our most vulnerable.”

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