Reynolds defence' played as Galloway begins libel action

Galloway: “The allegations made by the Telegraph are very serious and extremely damaging”

Scottish MP George Galloway took on the Daily Telegraph at London’s High Court this week in a libel case in which the newspaper is relying on a “Reynolds defence”.

The defence, named after the libel action by former Irish Prime Minister Albert Reynolds against the Sunday Times , was established by the law lords in 1999.

It gives newspapers protection from libel suits by claiming qualified privilege if they can prove they acted responsibly in printing the allegations and that they were published in the public interest.

Galloway is suing the Daily Telegraph for libel damages in respect of a series of articles in April last year which, he says, alleged he was “in the pay” of Saddam Hussein.

In his action, Galloway has denied he was “a greedy crook” who took cash from Saddam Hussein’s regime to fund a luxury life style.

The 50-year-old MP for Glasgow Kelvin told Mr Justice Eady, who is hearing the case without a jury, that he never took “Saddam’s shilling” to live the good life with a home in London and a luxury £250,000 villa in Portugal, and “at least a box of Havana cigars”.

Galloway told the judge: “The allegations made by the Telegraph are very serious and extremely damaging.

They are all false. The Telegraph does not say they are true.”

He denied receiving a penny for himself from Saddam or being an “apologist” for him. He also denied being “Saddam’s little helper”.

While he admitted that he had campaigned against the war in Iraq and on behalf of the Iraqi people he told the court : “I have never sought or received payment from Saddam Hussein or his regime as an inducement for expressing views or taking actions.”

His counsel, Richard Rampton QC, said the action centred 0n memos allegedly found by Telegraph foreign correspondent David Blair in the looted and burned out Foreign Ministry after the fall of Baghdad.

Those papers are said to refer to an appeal fund set up by Galloway.

Galloway says the appeal, in the name of a young cancer victim from Iraq whom he flew to Scotland for life-saving treatment, had been investigated by the Charity Commission and no evidence had been found to show money was not properly used.

Blair told the court he had no doubts that the documents relating to Galloway which he found in Baghdad were genuine.

David Price QC, counsel for the Telegraph, said they did not claim that the allegations contained in the documents were true, merely that they raised matters that needed investigating in the public interest.

The judge is expected to reserve judgment in the case and give his decision in writing later.

By Roger Pearson

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