Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Damages for firm over Syria claims

Britam Defence Limited won an action in London's High Court over an article on the Mail Online website

A British-based defence company has accepted substantial libel damages over a claim of involvement in a chemical weapons plot in Syria.

Britam Defence Limited, its business development director David Goulding and founder and chief operating officer Philip Doughty brought an action in London's High Court over an article on the Mail Online website in January this year.

Their solicitor-advocate, Adam Tudor, told Mrs Justice Nicola Davies that it focused on internal emails at Britam Defence, which the story said had been hacked from Britam's computer system and published on the internet.

Those emails were said to demonstrate that the American government had approved a covert plot to launch a chemical weapons attack in Syria that could then be blamed on Syrian president Bashar Assad's regime.

In particular, it quoted one email which had purportedly been sent by Mr Goulding to Mr Doughty, in which Mr Goulding outlined a proposal whereby Britam would supply chemical weapons and Ukrainian personnel to Homs - a city in western Syria - for use in the attack.

Mr Tudor said that, as Associated Newspapers accepted, the article would have been understood to suggest that Britam was willing - for enormous financial award - to consider taking part in a nefarious and illegal plot of the kind described, which would have led to the death, injury and maiming of countless innocent civilians.

In fact, he added, the emails in question were forgeries. They were not written or sent by the claimants - or by anyone at Britam or associated with them - and the illegal hacking of the company's website remained the subject of a criminal investigation. "The claimants had no involvement in any chemical weapons plot and would never contemplate becoming involved in the heinous activities which were the subject of the article."

Mr Tudor said that Associated Newspapers had agreed to pay substantial damages together with legal costs.

Its solicitor, Martin Wood, offered its sincere apologies for the damage and distress caused by the publication of the false allegations, which had appeared on US websites. It acknowledged that the emails in question were completely fabricated and there was no question of any of the claimants being involved - or even considering being involved - in the heinous actions to which the article referred.

"The defendant is pleased to set the record straight."

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