A London bus driver today accepted £30,000 damages – for libel and breach of privacy – from The Sun over a claim that he ordered passengers off his vehicle so that he could pray.
The story, published in March last year, caused Arunas Raulynaitis considerable distress and embarrassment, his solicitor, Stephen Loughrey, of law firm Carter-Ruck, told Mr Justice Eady at the High Court.
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“The article suggested that Mr Raulynaitis was so arrogant, unprofessional and contemptuous of the passengers within his care, whom he is paid to serve, that he ordered them off his bus so that he could pray.
“The article went on to allege that the passengers later refused to re-board the bus, because they spotted a rucksack and feared he may be a fanatic and therefore, it is to be inferred, a terrorist.”
Loughrey said the newspaper now accepted that the allegations were false.
Raulynaitis did not order any passengers off the bus, there was no rucksack, and no one refused to re-board because they feared he was a fanatic.
Raulynaitis had prayed on the bus – during his statutory rest break, as he was entitled to do, and no passengers were inconvenienced.
“It transpires that an individual who noticed Mr Raulynaitis at prayer chose to film this act on a mobile phone and sent the video to The Sun, which then reproduced stills from it alongside the article, as well as the footage itself on The Sun’s website.”
The article not only created an utterly false impression of Mr Raulynaitis’s attitude toward his passengers, but also wrongly cast serious aspersions on his religious faith – a matter of the utmost importance to him.
News Group Newspapers had already published an apology and agreed to pay substantial damages plus costs, Loughrey said.
The newspaper’s solicitor, Patrick Callaghan, apologised for publication of the false allegations.
Carter-Ruck said in a statement after the hearing that the damages were for libel and breach of privacy.
“As well as being highly defamatory of Mr Raulynaitis, the article was also a clear and serious infringement of his privacy,” the firm said.
“It included photographs of him at prayer, and indeed the website version of the article included deeply intrusive mobile phone footage, which readers of The Sun were encouraged to watch.
“References to the false story quickly found their way on to a number of other often Islamophobic websites and the footage of Mr Raulynaitis at prayer was also posted on YouTube, where it was viewed by thousands more people.”