Solicitor challenges Mail over false story

From: Tabloid Watch
In July 2010, the Mail and Sun apologised and paid damages to Parameswaran Subramanyam, a Tamil who they accused of secretly eating hamburgers while claiming to be on hunger strike.

The Leveson Inquiry has now published a witness statement from Magnus Boyd, the solicitor who represented Subramanyam. He focuses on the Daily Mail’s article and says:

The Article, which in its original hard copy form also carried a photograph of Scotland Yard, stated that the source of the allegation was the police and contained the following words:

“Scotland Yard surveillance teams using specialist monitoring equipment had watched in disbelief as he tucked into clandestine deliveries.

“A police insider said: ‘In view of the overtime bill this has got to be the most expensive Bie Mac ever. ’

“Scotland Yard made no official comment but senior sources said police decided against dragging the bogus hunger striker out of his tent for fear it would start a riot.

“’One source said: ‘This was such a sensitive operation that it was felt officers could inflame the situation if we brought the strike and demonstration to a premature end..”

Boyd then explains what happens when they looked into the story:

Following publication of the Article, Michelle Riondel, the solicitor then instructed by Mr Subramanyam, spoke to the Metropolitan Police Superintendent who was in charge of the operation who confirmed that:

– there was no police surveillance team assigned to watch him;

– there was no use of ‘specialist monitoring equipment’;

– the police had no ‘evidence’ of the allegations made in the Article;

– he was not aware of any police decision ‘against dragging the bogus hunger striker out of his tent’ or ‘that it was felt officers could inflame the situation if [they] brought the hunger strike and demonstration to a premature end’.

Boyd concludes:

Neither I nor my client know how the statements in the Article quoted above at paragraph 2 found their way into the Article. As a matter of logic there are only two possibilities which are either that:

i. a police source simply made up these allegations and communicated them to The Daily Mail; or

ii. The Daily Mail made up the police sources.

If i) happened then The Daily Mail must have been so confident in its police source so as not to consider it necessary to request the footage in order to verify it. Had The Daily Mail done so, it would have become clear that none existed.

If ii) happened (and the newspaper invented police sources for an article being published to the nation at large both in hard copy and on-line) then that would seem to indicate that the newspaper was sufficiently confident in the strength of its relationship with the police not to fear repercussions from the police for falsely presenting them as the source and/or that the newspaper thought that Mr Subramanyam would not have the means and wherewithal to sue.

(Hat-tip to David Allen Green)