Former UK Parliament member Tim Yeo must cough up “more than £400,000” (about $600,000) after unsuccessfully suing the UK Sunday Times for libel.
Yeo sued over the newspaper saying he “behaved scandalously” and was “willing to abuse his position in Parliament to further his own financial and business interests in preference to the public interest,” as iMediaEthics previously reported. The 2013 Times story was based on undercover reporting.
The BBC explained that the Times‘ story claimed Yeo “breached parliamentary codes of conduct by telling reporters he could promote business concerns in return for cash” and that Yeo “would approach ministers for a daily fee of £7,000.”
The Sunday Times argued its story was “true,” “fair comment” and “responsible journalism on matters of public interest.”
In a statement after the case, the Times‘s editor Martin Ivens called the dismissal a “victory for investigative journalism. It vindicates the role of the press in exposing the clandestine advocacy by MPs for undissclosed interests.” Ivens went on, according to the Guardian:
“The Sunday Times’ Insight team has a long history of reporting on the conduct of politicians and is proud to have forced reform of standards in public life.
“This case has emphasised the essential role of newspapers in disclosing wrongdoing. It is good to see the courts recognise that journalism carried out in good faith is vital to a healthy democracy.”
The judge said Yeo gave “unreliable” and “untruthable evidence,” that was partially “uterrly implausible,” the Mail reported.
Yeo’s lawyer sent iMediaEthics the following statement from Yeo Nov. 25:
“I am very disappointed with today’s judgment. I made the mistake of accepting a lunch invitation with two undercover journalists who posed as consultants working for a leading edge solar technology development company. I did so in the belief that they had approached me in good faith, seeking my advice on the promotion of an innovative product which would be of great benefit to the country. The conversation over lunch was informal, general and preliminary. The journalists never made clear what exactly they wanted from me, even when I asked them directly “if you want to define fairly precisely what you would expect me to do I can tell you whether I can do it or not.” My words, spoken in a friendly chat at an introductory lunch, were not carefully chosen, and I regret that, it seems, they have been misinterpreted. The fact is that I have not and would never have acted in breach of the rules of the House of Commons, which I have scrupulously observed throughout the time I was an MP.”
iMediaEthics has written to the Times for comment.