Sun and Times prepare for Paris court dates

By Dominic Ponsford

Three journalists from a paper not known for its love of the French
narrowly avoided meeting their Waterloo in a Paris courtroom this week.

A trio from The Sun were set to go before a Paris judge on Friday on
the unlikely charge of projecting an advertisement onto a public
monument. But Sun lawyers have negotiated a stay of execution on a
technicality.

Reporter John Askell, photographer Dan Charity and
press officer Lorna Carmichael used a laser projector to beam an
England flag and the slogan “Come on England” onto the Arc de Triomphe
during the Euro 2004 football championships last June.

Armed
police detained them for several hours before releasing them with a
caution. If the case goes ahead, they could face a fine or imprisonment.

Sun
sister paper The Times was also heading for a showdown in a Paris
courtroom this week. The Telegraph- owning Barclay brothers are suing
Times editor Robert Thomson and media editor Dan Sabbagh for criminal
libel. A preliminary hearing was due to be held on Thursday. The action
relates to an article in The Times in November that suggested the twins
“swoop on owners in distress” to acquire businesses.

Thomson and Sabbagh could face jail, but according to legal experts they are likely to escape with a small fine.

Thomson
said: “It is unfortunate that the Barclay brothers have not seen fit to
withdraw their action in the interests of press freedom. They had many
potential remedies, including a letter to The Times, a complaint to the
Press Complaints Commission or a case brought in Britain, where The
Times is published. Instead they chose to pursue a criminal defamation
action.”

A spokesman for the Barclays has previously explained
they filed an action demanding right of reply under French law because
they thought they would get a quicker result than in the UK courts.

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