Public relations expert Justine McGuinness, who acted for Kate and Gerry McCann’s Find Madeleine Fund, is suing Mirror Group Newspapers for libel damages.
McGuinness, who spent three months working as a communications strategist for the fund, is suing over a story in The People in October 2007 which she said was defamatory.
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The front page story, headed: “Woman who cost Maddie fund £51k” was also published on the paper’s website.
In her writ, McGuinness said the story suggested she had deliberately ripped off the Find Madeleine Fund by overcharging the McCanns for expenses to which she was not entitled and inflating her overtime.
She said the story claimed that, because of this, she was immediately forced to quit by the fund, although she had persuaded the McCanns to conceal this as the true reason for the end of her employment.
McGuinness, who runs Pineapple Consultants, said the story seriously injured her reputation and caused her considerable hurt, distress and embarrassment.
She said the allegations struck at the heart of her personal and professional reputation, casting serious doubt on her honesty and integrity, and were deeply offensive to her as they accused her of “cheating” a worthwhile and high-profile cause.
The writ claimed that, as a result of the story, the allegations were repeated in other media, and on the internet.
McGuinness said although she had written a letter of complaint to the paper, The People had refused to apologise or provide any correction, which has increased the injury to her feelings.
Now McGuinness is seeking damages and aggravated damages for libel and an injunction banning repetition of the original allegations about her.