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February 28, 2024updated 29 Feb 2024 11:13am

Guardian makes apology and payment to Dan Wootton after privacy complaint

Commentator Marina Purkiss now also facing privacy complaint over Dan Wootton social media post.

By Dominic Ponsford

The Guardian has apologised and agreed to make a payment to suspended GB News presenter Dan Wootton after reporting that he was under police investigation.

It is one of a number of publications and individuals facing the threat of legal action from Wootton for invasion of privacy, and the first to opt for a settlement.

Wootton complained over an article headlined “Police investigating allegations Dan Wootton solicited explicit images” which was published on 2 October 2023 and removed from The Guardian website the following day after complaints from his lawyers.

His lawyer Donal Blaney argued that it is now well established in UK law that people who are the subject of a police investigation have a right to privacy unless they are charged with a criminal offence.

The Guardian said in a published apology: “We apologise to Mr Wootton for the article. Last week, the Metropolitan Police and Police Scotland said they had concluded their investigations and are taking no further action. Mr Wootton has restated that the police inquiries have exonerated him of any criminal wrongdoing.”

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The Guardian said it has paid an unspecified contribution to Wootton’s legal costs. Press Gazette understands it is a significant sum.

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Press Gazette understands that Wootton is in negotiations with the Mirror, which also published news of the police investigation only later to take the story down.

Newsquest’s The National in Scotland is also under threat of legal action for an article that was published and then removed.

Byline Times, which was the first outlet to report that Wootton was under police investigation last year, has made no indication that it plans to settle.

Byline Times co-founder and executive editor Peter Jukes told Press Gazette: “Byline Times will respond to Dan Wootton’s lawyer in due course. Meanwhile, we will always stand by public interest journalism.”

Marina Purkiss facing Wootton legal complaint over social media post

Last week Press Gazette reported that celebrity Carol Vorderman and former Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis had also been contacted by Wootton’s legal team over content posted on X (formerly Twitter) related to the fact Wootton was under police investigation.

Press Gazette now understands that political commentator Marina Purkiss has also attracted the attention of Wootton’s legal team over reference made to the police investigation on X.

Wootton’s lawyer Donal Blaney has written a letter before action to Byline Times over its reporting, citing the Bloomberg versus ZXC Supreme Court judgment of 2022 in which a businessman successfully sued for invasion of privacy over a report that he was being investigated over allegations of bribery and corruption.

Byline Times reported in October 2023 that Wootton was the subject of a Met Police investigation after the force confirmed to them that it was investigating allegations involving a man in his 40s.

Wootton said in a statement last week: “I have now been completely cleared in two investigations by the Metropolitan and Scottish Police, who have confirmed they will be taking no further action.”

He added: “It is high time that all of our ancient rights were once again upheld, chief among them the right to be presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law.”

In September 2019 the BBC paid Cliff Richard £210,000 in damages and £2m in legal costs after it reported on a police raid on the singer’s home. The Devil Woman singer was never arrested or charged with a criminal offence.

Wootton was suspended from his role as a presenter on GB News in October last year after a row over comments made on his show by actor-turned-politician Laurence Fox about a female journalist.

Wootton also had his contract as a columnist with the Daily Mail terminated at the same time.

Email pged@pressgazette.co.uk to point out mistakes, provide story tips or send in a letter for publication on our "Letters Page" blog

Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
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  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
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