Times application for police papers in libel battle is rejected

A judge has rejected an application by The Times for an order that the Metropolitan Police should hand it documents it believes would help it in a libel battle.

The newspaper is being sued by police officer Gary Flood over a story which it published on 2 June 2006, under the headline: “Detectives accused of taking bribes from Russian exiles”.

Flood claims that the story, which appeared in the newspaper and on its website, defamed him by suggesting that there were strong grounds to believe, or reasonable grounds to suspect, that he had abused his position as a police officer by accepting £20,000 in bribes from some of Russia’s most wanted suspected criminals in return for selling them highly confidential Home Office and police intelligence about attempts to extradite them to Russia to face criminal charges.

The application by The Times for a disclosure order against the Metropolitan Police Service was rejected by Mr Justice Eady on 5 March following a hearing on 23 February.

The newspaper, which seeks to defend the libel case on the grounds of justification and Reynolds qualified privilege, had obtained a third party disclosure order for documents from the the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

The newspaper then applied for a third party disclosure order against the Metropolitan Police Service.

In its application against the Metropolitan Police, the newspaper sought access to documents in a total of 12 categories, including those connected with an investigation into allegations against Mr Flood.

Rejecting the application, Eady suggested that it could be renewed, saying that it might be possible to obtain a disclosure order with “a more narrowly focused application”, although he also warned that the strict criteria in relation to such disclosure orders did not yet seem to have been fulfilled in any of the categories he had considered.

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