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July 1, 2013

Cocaine smuggler mistake costs Yachting World substantial libel payout

By PA Media Lawyer

A catamaran owner has received substantial compensation from Yachting World after the magazine wrongly accused him of being a convicted cocaine smuggler.
The allegation in December last year had a highly detrimental effect on Nicholas Cokes's reputation within the sailing and surfing community and he – and his family – had suffered a great deal of distress and embarrassment, his solicitor, Zoe Brocket told Mrs Justice Sharp at the High Court.
Cokes, whose surf and windsurf board business trades as Homeblown, is the owner of the Orinoco Flo, a catamaran which is well known for its design and innovation.
Recently, it received press attention following the rescue of Matt Gill, who had borrowed the boat to sail to Antigua and back but encountered storms in the Atlantic which led to the Orinoco Flo's mast coming down with 850 miles of the journey left.
Yachting World's article about the rescue referred to Cokes as the owner but went on to allege that he had served time for cocaine smuggling.
Brocket said: "The allegation that Mr Cokes had served time for cocaine smuggling is highly defamatory and untrue. He has never served time for cocaine smuggling nor has he ever smuggled drugs or served time.
"Quite simply, Yachting World had made a mistake, as in fact, a previous owner of the Orinoco Flo had been imprisoned for smuggling cocaine before the Orinoco Flo was even built."
In January, publisher IPC Media Ltd made an unqualified offer of amends and, in May, the parties were able to agree a substantial figure for compensation with payment of Cokes's legal costs.
The magazine's solicitor, Paul Fox, said: "It was truly unfortunate that during the editing process, Mr Cokes's name was mixed up with that of a former owner of the Orinoco Flo. The result was that he was wrongly accused of being a convicted drug smuggler.
"Within 24 hours of the complaint, an apology was agreed and was published in the February issue of the magazine, which was the very next issue, and online. Through me the magazine repeats that apology today."

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