The Times has successfully used the Reynolds defence after being sued by a Metropolitan Police officer.
Detective Sergeant Flood sued the newspaper’s owner following publication of an article headlined “Detective accused of taking bribes from Russian exiles’on June 2, 2006.
It reported that Scotland Yard was investigating allegations that a British security company with wealthy Russian clients had paid a police officer in the extradition unit for sensitive information.
The story named Flood as the officer under investigation.
The newspaper argued that its report was the result of responsible journalism.
The claimant’s legal team argued the investigation referred to in the story had resulted from information journalists working on the article had themselves given the Metropolitan Police.
“Weight should in this case be given to the professional judgment of the editor and the journalists. There is no indication that the decision to publish the article in the form it was published on June 2 was made in a casual, cavalier, slipshod or careless manner,” Mr Justice Tugendhat said in his ruling.
However Justice Tugendhat ruled that while the printed article was protected by Reynolds privilege, the same article on the newspaper’s website was protected only in respect of publication until September 5 2007.
After that date the newspaper should have published an update to the story on the website, he found, as Flood’s solicitors had told it in a letter that he had been cleared to return to his duties and an investigation had shown that there was no evidence to support any allegation of wrongdoing against him.
Justice Tugendhat said Times Newspapers, the publisher, would have received the solicitor’s letter on September 5, at which point “responsible journalism required” it to publish an update to the website.
“None was published, and I do not have to consider in what terms it should have been. Accordingly, the defence of qualified privilege fails in respect of subsequent publications,” he said.