Associated wins soldiers libel case

Associated Newspapers is likely to be £500,000 out of pocket, despite winning a libel case involving a pair of soldiers it reported to be having an affair while on active duty.

The couple, now married, have indicated they may file for bankruptcy after being ordered to pay Associated’s costs. Their own lawyer took the case on a “no-win, no-fee” basis.

Sarah Pedder, a former Army captain, launched legal action after articles in the Daily Mail and Evening Standard alleged she had conducted an affair with Sergeant Al Dummer while stationed in Oman. The pair were both married to different partners at the time.

One Daily Mail story was headlined “Desert manoeuvres”.

The couple argued that the articles in question inferred that they had been having a sexual affair. The crux of their defence was that the affair did not start until after their return home to the UK from Oman.

Lawyers for Associated Newspapers successfully pleaded justification and persuaded the jury that the stories in question were true.

Associated Newspapers legal director Harvey Kass defended the decision to fight the case, indicating that a wider principle was at stake.

He told Press Gazette: “We took a decision not to bow to the pressure newspapers often feel when faced by claimants operating on no win, no fee.

“We fought this case because we believed in our articles. We are often faced with claimants and their lawyers who think that their inability to pay court costs if they lose will deter us from fighting.

“They are wrong, as this case clearly demonstrates.”

By Dominic Ponsford

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