The Sunday Times has won its appeal against a judge’s decision that a report of allegations made in Parliament against a businessman meant that he had been involved in money-laundering for the IRA.
The judge should have found that the newspaper’s story meant only that there were reasonable grounds to suspect that businessman and accountant Peter Curistan might be guiltyof IRA money-laundering and financial malpractice, the Court of Appeal held.
But Curistan lost his appeal against last year’s decision by Mr Justice Gray in the High Court that parts of The Sunday Times’ story, which reported comments made in Parliament by MP Peter Robinson in February 2006, were protected by qualified privilege under the Defamation Act 1996.
Lady Justice Arden said the essence of the defamation claim was that The Sunday Times had ‘heavily embroidered’the comments made in Parliament by Mr Robertson, and had ‘attempted to cast a ‘pall of sleaze’ over Mr Curistan’s business operations”.
Mr Justice Gray, she said, was correct in holding that qualified privilege – which she also referred to as reporting privilege – applied to those parts of the newspaper’s article which reported what Mr Robertson had said in Parliament.