A Conservative MP has won substantial damages from Times Newspapers after the Sunday Times published “utterly unfounded” claims that he had put his hand up three female MPs’ skirts in 2010.
Dr Daniel Poulter took legal action after the weekly title published two articles on 5 November 2017, including one by fellow Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen, alleging the “inappropriate behaviour”.
Bridgen told the newspaper he had reported Poulter to the Tory whips’ office in 2010, but that it had not been acted upon.
When sexual misconduct allegations against a number of MPs emerged in autumn 2017, Bridgen took his claims to the Conservative Party’s internal complaints process. The articles were published just hours later.
Poulter was cleared of any misconduct in March last year after the panel found a lack of evidence to support Bridgen’s complaint.
The former health minister took action against the Sunday Times after noticing that articles containing the misconduct allegations against him were still visible on the Times website, despite his being cleared.
His claim for defamation, misuse of private information, breach of confidence and inducement to breach confidence was settled today at the High Court.
Oliver Murphy, for Times Newspapers, told the court: “The Sunday Times offer their sincere and genuine apologies to Dr Poulter for having published the articles complained of, for the damage these publications caused to his reputation and for the personal distress and embarrassment that their actions have caused him over the past 14 months.”
The publisher has agreed to pay Poulter substantial damages and legal costs, to remove the articles from its website, delete tweets relating to the articles, and not to republish the same or similar allegations about Poulter in the future.
Hanna Basha, representing Poulter, told the court that publication of the allegations had “caused immense damage to his reputation, both personally and in his professional life, as a Member of Parliament and as a hospital doctor”.
“Dr Poulter has also suffered very considerable hurt, distress and embarrassment,” she added.
Poulter said in a statement: “This has been a horrendous episode. These utterly unfounded allegations were published against me at a time of enormous frenzy about the supposed misconduct and wrongdoing of various MPs.
“Like many of the lurid claims made against numerous MPs at that time, they have been proved to be entirely without foundation – as I always knew them to be.”
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