Breath test arrest pilot drops Operation Elveden privacy action against The Sun and pays £175k costs

An airline pilot who sued The Sun for breach of privacy over a report that he failed a breathalyser test has dropped his action.

The case was due to go to court on 18 January, but Press Gazette understands it has been settled with pilot Daniel Dufour’s side paying £175,000 towards publisher News UK’s costs.

The story at the centre of the action, “Armed Cops lift off Boozy Pilot”, was published by The Sun in April 2009.

It was one of a number of stories cited in the Operation Elveden prosecution of reporter Anthony France which last year saw him convicted of aiding and abetting misconduct in a public office. France is appealing his conviction over payments totaling £22,000 paid by The Sun to a police source over three years.

France was the only journalist out of 34 arrested and/or charged to be convicted at trial under Operation Elveden.

Last year The Sun failed to get the case struck out before trial because it said Dufour did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy about the fact that he was arrested.

The judge disagreed, citing Sir Brian Leveson's report on the press which said the names of those arrested should only be released to journalists by police under "exceptional circumstances".

Air Canada airline captain Dufour was arrested on board his plane on 16 April 2009 and breathalysed by police at Heathrow Airport. According to last year's preliminary judgment he was told the breath test was positive, but a later a blood test result came up below the legal limit so he was not charged.

He claimed he suffered “loss, distress, anxiety, humiliation and damage to his reputation” because of The Sun story. He also complained that his reputation had been “sullied” and that he was “extremely embarrassed”.

His case for breach of confidence and misuse of private information was handled by solicitors Atkins Thomson on a no win, no fee basis. The Sun was represented by law firm Wiggin.

A spokesman for the paper said: “We have said from the outset that The Sun will defend claims that are without merit. This story was clearly in the public interest, and the claimant was invited to drop it at the start of proceedings. We are pleased that he finally withdrew before trial and will fight similarly baseless claims in the future." 

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